Monday, May 14, 2012

Memories: Hockey & High Heels Event with the LA Kings

by Lisa Ovens

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Los Angeles Kings. Don't get me wrong;  I would prefer my hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks to be playing in the Western Conference Finals right now. Even though the Kings handily bounced the Nucks out in round one, I won't hold any grudges or cheer against them. Because one of my coolest days was spent with the Los Angeles Kings and some of their most dedicated fans.

I had successfully pitched the Kings about hosting an event for women, and their fan development department got busy and planned a full day of activity for female hockey fans. Cool thing number one...The Kings utilized my logo and name, Hockey and High Heels in their event marketing materials. Having a cult following/somewhat obscure hockey company nestled on the fringe of the multi- billion dollar Sports Entertainment Industry, well, that kind of plug was pretty special for me. Yay!

Once the press release arrived, another little of the activities listed was a " Social hour with Luc Robitaille and Lisa Ovens".  Yep, that was particularly thrilling for me, because how often does a person get their name included in the same sentence along with a Hockey Hall of Famer, a Stanley Cup winner, and the highest scoring left winger in NHL history?  It was October 2007, and at that point in time, the Kings were still in a rebuild mode, and Robitaille had just taken his front office position as President of Business Operations. There was definitely a buzz about this, and one could easily sense that Robitaille was going to be a great fit in this role. And me? Pretty fine with my role in that sentence and sharing a social hour with the dude :o)

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in late October as the guests began to arrive. Hilary, the event planner even let me register a few of the guests.That was when I met, face to face, a season ticket holder, Nadine, (pictured here on the right). Coincidentally, she had emailed me before the event was even confirmed to share how much she had enjoyed reading my book, and even extended an invite to catch a Kings game with her should I ever be in LA. That was pretty sweet of her (especially of her husband, who would have to be kicked out of his seat on my behalf. And their seats are good: I believe she said "we sit so close we can see THEIR EYES"). And then voila, two weeks later she was buying her event ticket, and we'd actually get to meet sooner, rather than later!

Aside from the game we watched at the end of the day, one of the bigger highlights was our 1.5 hour skating clinic led by former King, and current radio commentator, Darryl Evans. This part came after a tour of the Kings locker room (this was pre- castle facade entryway - dang!). The Kings had done this type of clinic for men, but this would be the first time it was ever offered to female Kings fans. It was during the clinic that a third cool thing happened: I did an on ice TV interview with Fox Sports, and half way through,  Bailey, the Kings mascot showed up! It was Bailey's first season and the very first mascot the Kings ever had; thoughtfully named after the Kings own Garnet "Ace"Bailey , their Director of Pro Scouting who had died in the September 11th terrorist attacks.Needless to say, but it was an honor to meet Bailey during his inaugural season. Hailing from Las Vegas, Bailey the Mascot was a pretty good skater, too. As were the Lady Kings, a local hockey team that participated in the event. Darryl worked us pretty hard, and even though Heidi Androl left the ice on a stretcher ( no, it wasn't due to exhaustion, it was part of a comedy bit for Kings Vision), all of us skaters were energized, with many women asking about possibly having a second because it was so darn fun.

After touring the many special  rooms, lounges and club sections at Staples Center (egad, there's plenty of them, all polished and perfect, ready to pamper the elite and the famous), we gathered for the social hour. I had the opportunity to speak, followed by Darryl and then Luc. During Darryl's talk it was very evident that the women in the room were serious Kings fans and incredibly knowledgeable ones at that as they grilled him about player personnel and other hockey operation concerns. Oops...a tiny rant is about to begin... So often, certain Canadian hockey fans (and even the Canadian hockey media) question the intensity of hockey fandom in the NHL's sunbelt markets and the Kings aren't immune to this. It's frustrating that they can't wrap their heads around the fact that fans exist south of our border that are just as dedicated and committed to the game as many Canadians are. End tiny rant. Anyway, back to the event... Luc was a lively speaker with a delightful sense of humor, and was genuinely excited about his new position and the changes in store for the Kings organization. I did get a photo with him, which I won't post here, mainly because I was wearing my cheesy " hey, look I'm posing with a hockey celebrity" smile ( so goofy, it shall remain in a hidden folder along with a similar pic of me and Mattias Ohlund during a Canucks event taken the previous season).

I do have this photo with Heidi Androl after the social hour. We were getting ready to do an interview that I kind of wish had happened before the clinic, because my hair was so much better then. But look at Heidi's hair. Should have asked her how she managed to combat the post hockey helmet look.

The game that night was versus the Edmonton Oilers (also was the late game on Hockey Night in Canada).  I had packed my special 3.5 inch "Oiler Killer" shoes (at the time, the shoe stat was 5-1 when the Oilers and I were in the same room - ha cha :o) As a group, we had great seats, and I sat with three regal King fans; one with the best name ever, Lisa, and a couple of cool Kings bloggers, Connie and Kairu. The three of us had a blast. I even made them take turns playing my Sau Ya Goule drum ( a fan accessory that I don't leave home without).

 Staples Center is a fantastic arena, and I did my best to check out as much of the concourse as I could during the intermissions. Oh, another cool thing: during the second period, Hilary collected me and led me down close to ice level so she could introduce me to a season ticket holder and fan of H&HH so I could sign a copy of my book for her. A memorable moment for sure, and man, she had a pretty sweet view of the ice. I'm talking "Nadine territory" here!

I should take a moment to mention that fact that Hilary Hodding, is a dynamo Fan Developer and event planner - she roved around the arena throughout the game, checking in on her other clients, making sure they were enjoying their in-game experience. I have been fortunate to be behind the scenes at a several of these events, and for those who may not realize, let me tell you how hard the sales and marketing departments work, game in and game out.

As the shoes expected, the Los Angeles Kings won the game 3-2. Then I had to go. But the final cool thing would happen the following day, after I arrived back in Vancouver. The first thing I did was call my mom. And before I could say anything, she blurted out...

Mom: were on Hockey Night in Canada!
Lisa: Seriously?
Mom: Yes. It was the start of first intermission and I headed to the kitchen for a snack. All of a sudden I heard Scott Oake say 'Hockey and High Heels" and then Kelly Hrudey said "I love it!' I ran back to the TV and they showed several clips of you and the girls on the ice skating and puck handling!

The next day I tracked down someone at CBC in Toronto with the authority to send me a DVD of the HNIC clip. To this day I do not know why Hockey Night in Canada didn't interview me like Fox Sports did, but at least I can listen to Kelly Hrudey say he loves Hockey and High Heels over and over again!!!

My day with the LA Kings will always be remembered. After what seemed to be an eternity of re-building for this team, I am truly happy for the Kings and their resilient fans as they embark on the next round of the journey, the Conference Finals. I know all too well, what it is like to see your team finally make it there again after such a long absence. And I will stop right there and simply say it is to savor the thrill of being one of the Final Four.

Now, I do have a little bit of a problem as far as cheering goes. The other half of the Western Conference Final is the Phoenix Coyotes. Another team I have a place in my heart for. They were the first ever NHL franchise that I teamed up with for and H&HH event. Gotta write another "Memories" story!

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