Hollywood's Hockey Jockeys
Industry "fan-sultants," from Bruckheimer to Jeff Blake, advise the L.A. Kings on how to bring razzle-dazzle to the rink.
Not only do the Los Angeles Kings have a lot of passionate fans in the industry, they even have a few working for them -- for perks, not pay. With an assist from its under-the-radar Hollywood Advisory Board, the hockey team is cooking in the NHL playoffs for the first time in years and eyeing its first Stanley Cup in its 45-year history.
"They're playing fantastic," says Jerry Bruckheimer, a board member and season-ticket holder since 1988. The group was formed four years ago by Luc Robitaille, the former Kings record-setting left winger who's now the club's president of business operations. It meets for a casual dinner before games two or three times a season. Team execs present marketing ideas, in-game footage, music and more for feedback, and the board -- whose dozen or so members include Jason Reitman, CAA managing partner (and former Dartmouth hockey player) David "Doc" O'Connor, Sony Pictures Entertainment vice chairman Jeff Blake and South Park supervising producer Frank Agnone -- offers suggestions. "They've helped us build something special," says Robitaille.
And they are passionate. Agnone wears a Wayne Gretzky-era jacket to games as a good-luck charm, while O'Connor, who says he is "ridiculously superstitious," dons something he good-naturedly refuses to divulge. "It's not underwear," he notes.
So far, something's working. The AEG-owned team, which began play in 1967, had sold out 41 of 43 home games this season through May 6.
Says Blake, whose wife, Barbara, wears the No. 19 jersey of little-used Kings enforcer Kevin Westgarth to games: "My thing has always been to get celebrities back to the game. It's all about the hockey, but we are in L.A. -- we want show business excitement."
This season, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson delivered a smooch for the arena's Kiss Cam, while others spotted include Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed, David Beckham with wife and kids, Will Ferrell, Matthew Perry, Pat Sajak, producer Burt Sugarman, Mary Hart, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alyssa Milano, Cory Monteith and Eric Stonestreet. Other industry Kings faithful run from Paramount's Steve Siskind to Warner Bros. TV president Bruce Rosenblum.
Meanwhile, additional members of the Hollywood board include Chris Lopes at Interscope Records, producers Gabe Sachs (90210) and Barry Josephson (Bones), Priority Records founder Bryan Turner, manager Risa Shapiro of The Schiff Co. and songwriter John Ondrasik (aka Five for Fighting). According to Robitaille, the Kings would not have changed their uniforms (eliminating purple, going full time with an "LA" logo) for this season without consulting them.
Bruckheimer, who describes the NHL as "undervalued," suggested bringing a cameraman onto the ice for shootouts. Cinderella drummer Fred Coury put together the celebratory "hey, hey, hey" musical montage triggered by every Kings goal at Staples. And Reitman's idea, explains Robitaille, was to videotape player profiles so fans get to know the "guys behind the helmets" -- stars like Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and this season's big free-agent acquisition, Mike Richards.
Agnone is behind the cheeky scoreboard videos that feature South Park's foul-mouthed Cartman mocking the opponent and exhorting fans to yell, "Go Kings Go!" The Comedy Central show has created about 40 spots since 1999 and receives six season tickets in a barter deal.
These industry fan-sultants have become so deeply involved in part because the Kings are winning (the team is in the playoffs for a third straight season after an eight-year drought) but mostly out of sheer love of the sport.
"Hockey is a combination of speed, domination, grace and violence," says Lopes, a 20-year Kings season-ticket holder who played for Brown University's hockey team and whose two daughters, then infants, once sat in the Stanley Cup nine years ago. "It's just the most exciting game in the world."
The Cup Arrives (Early?) in L.A.: The Stanley Cup came to town May 1 and 2 and made several stops, including one at Glee, where Cory Monteith said of his first glimpse of the trophy: "It's the same feeling you have when you're 5 and meet Ronald McDonald at your friend's birthday party."