LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Earlier this month, the Kings held a youth camp in Mexico City as part of the team’s efforts to grow the game of hockey internationally.
CBS2’s Jim Hill spoke with Kings President and General Manager Luc Robitaille and former player and current Director of Hockey Programming, Derek Armstrong, about how it all started and where they hope it can go.
The Mexico City Jr. Kings camp was the first time the Kings have returned to Mexico’s capital city since they hosted their first youth hockey camp there in October 2018. The combination of logistical issues and the coronavirus pandemic forced the Kings to take a three-year hiatus since that first visit.
“It’s important to help grow the game… We found out there were some kids skating, [so] going back this year, I think it was tremendous,” said Robitaille. “It’s going to be important for us to keep going just to help grow and then we’re always there. We [will] have a presence every year.”
Armstrong, who played with the Kings from 2002-2009, was hired by Robitaille five years ago to help grow the game of hockey across the globe.
“[We’ve] been all over the country and the world and the game of hockey has been so great to us,” said Armstrong. “For us to continue to grow the Kings brand and hockey… we want to make a worldwide sport like basketball and baseball.”
Nearly 45 players ages 5-16 participated in the youth clinic at Mexico City’s Centro Comercial Santa Fe rink.
“Once you go down and see the quality of athlete down there, the hardest part of hockey is learning to skate, [but] now they have rinks there, [and] the rink that we were in is one of the nicest facilities I’ve ever seen,” said Armstrong. “So once we get kids skating, to make this a worldwide brand and get some other countries with their better athletes playing hockey, I think it’s very important for the NHL, obviously as well as the LA Kings.”
Armstrong stated that he, along with Robitaille, believes it was much harder to grow the sports in the early 2000’s when the league was adding expansion franchises in Florida and Arizona, where “they didn’t know anything about hockey 15-20 years ago.”
“I think it’s much easier than you thought it used to be because back in the day, no one ever watched it. You couldn’t get TV. You didn’t have YouTube. We didn’t have Tik Tok or Twitter,” said Armstrong. “No one would have known who I was [before], now they can Google us… Back in the day you couldn’t do that. So now when we go down there, they can actually relate to the LA Kings.”