LOS ANGELES (AP) — Luc Robitaille is the latest Los Angeles sports great to be immortalized in bronze in front of Staples Center.
The Los Angeles Kings’ Hall of Fame left wing became the seventh sports icon honored with a large statue in front of the downtown arena Saturday night, recognizing his prolific hockey career spent mostly in Southern California.
The slow-skating forward with a brilliant scoring touch was greeted by a huge contingent of Kings fans at a ceremony to unveil the statue of Robitaille in his 1990s Kings uniform, his stick high above his head in an apparent goal celebration.
“I would hope this statue symbolizes that if you put your heart and soul into something, dreams do come true,” Robitaille said.
Robitaille was a ninth-round draft pick from Quebec who eventually scored 668 career goals in 19 pro seasons. The highest-scoring left wing in NHL history won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002, and he became the Kings’ president of business operations in 2007 after his retirement.
Wayne Gretzky, Rob Blake, Mario Lemieux and Marc Bergevin joined Lakers great Jerry West at the twilight event, the buildings in the LA Live entertainment complex echoing with the L.A. fans’ signature “Luuuuuuuc!” cheer. Robitaille’s son, father, brother and sister sat with his wife, Stacia, who gave a heartfelt speech.
“You teach me every day how to never give up,” she said. “Let this statue be a remembrance that nice guys do not finish last.”
But the speakers also didn’t hesitate to take jabs at Robitaille’s infamously unimpressive skating abilities. Blake jokingly speculated that he hoped the statue would show Robitaille “flying through the neutral zone.”
“Just so none of you are confused, that’s not Luc in action,” longtime Kings play-by-play announcer Bob Miller cracked after the curtain was pulled off. “That’s an actual statue.”
Robitaille thanked Staples Center executives “for giving me a great piece of real estate in front” of the arena near the street. He thanked his father and remembered his late mother: “I know my mom is going to make sure there’s no pigeons that land on this thing.”
Robitaille then thought back to draft day in 1984, when he waited seven hours for his name to be called 171st overall.
“I was just a boy with a dream,” Robitaille said. “Many people said this boy was too slow, not strong enough.”
Robitaille won the Calder Trophy in 1987 and spent eight seasons with the Kings, playing alongside Gretzky in the 1993 Stanley Cup finals. The Kings traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings’ opponent at Staples Center on Saturday night.
Another trade sent Robitaille to the New York Rangers for two seasons, but he returned to Los Angeles in 1997 and led the Kings back to the playoffs and into their new downtown arena home. After winning a Cup in Detroit at 36 years old, he returned for two final seasons in Los Angeles.
The eight-time All-Star went straight into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
The other statues in Star Plaza honor Gretzky, West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Oscar De La Hoya and Chick Hearn.
This article was written by Greg Beacham from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.