The Hockey News - Money & Power
NHL TEAM EXECUTIVES
The Kings aren’t having their best season, but Robitaille is unwavering. He’s intent to help them become the best franchise in all pro sports. The NHL’s most powerful team exec shares his business vision with our top dog
AGE: 52 | TOP 100: 22
GRAEME ROUSTAN: Luc, thank you for coming to The Hockey News.
LUC ROBITAILLE: You’re welcome. It’s great to be here.
GR: Is it?
LR: It’s The Hockey News, come on.
GR: I want to talk to you about your business career.
When you were coming to the end of your playing career, is the business side of the game something that you knew you wanted to get into?
LR: I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do or what my position was going to be. But I was sure of one thing, that we needed a change in L.A. I was very fortunate, I played for the New York Rangers at their peak in the ’90s, and then I played for the Detroit Red Wings at their peak in 2001-02, and I had a very specific vision of what an organization should be. The opportunity I had to play in New York and Detroit really gave me a vision for changing our organization for the future and how we could change the culture.
GR: So you got an opportunity to go back home to the Kings.
LR: Yeah, well, I owed it to Tim Leiweke when he was the president of AEG and the Kings. When I signed in Detroit he told me he wanted me to finish my career in L.A., so when I became a free agent again I literally just called him. It seemed to make sense for everyone, for the Kings, for me and my family, and that’s how it came about. I came back, finished my career in L.A., then we had a lockout and that gave me more time to get ready for after my career.
GR: When you took the job and started running the business side for the Kings, the marketing, the sales, the season tickets, how challenging was your first year?
LR: My first year was interesting because when I retired, the first year of retirement I became a consultant. Right away I asked Tim Leiweke if I could be on the main floor of the AEG company just to learn everything that was going on, and the other thing I asked was if I could attend every Kings meeting, and I did. A year later I made a pitch to Tim and (AEG CEO and Kings owner) Philip Anschutz about taking the next position where we would have someone who would go to bed and wake up in the morning and take care of the Kings. What was important for me was to bring the right people with me. I learned quickly if you surround yourself with good people, you’re going to do well.
GR: What’s the biggest change in you as a business leader today versus 10 years ago?
LR: I just know more now, I’m learning every day. In 10 years from now I’ll know more than I know today. I’ve been fortunate. A guy like (Chicago Blackhawks president) John McDonough has been a mentor of mine. I call him a little less the last few years, but he’s been really good to me. Guys like Cam Neely, (Bruins owner Jeremy) Jacobs, Mr. Anschutz have been great. In business if you make a mistake, it might take six months to fix it, so you have to learn to be a lot more
patient. I know that now more than ever before.
GR: So when you wake up in the morning now to take care of the Kings – and let’s forget about the hockey side for a moment – what’s the big challenge from a business point of view?
LR: We have very, very high expectations in L.A. Our goal is not to be the best organization in hockey, it’s to be the best organization in sports. So it goes by how we treat people and the way we go about it. We were very fortunate, we won it in 2014, the best organization in sports. But I would say when I wake up in the morning now, unfortunately in sports you do go as your team is performing, so it’s been a challenge. But at the same time, the vision hasn’t changed. Win or lose, we don’t change. What we’re setting up for hasn’t changed.