Los Angeles (CBSLA) – Earlier this month, the Kings hosted a youth camp in Mexico City as part of the team’s effort to expand the sport of hockey internationally.
CBS2’s Jim Hill spoke to King’s President and General Manager Luc Robitaille and former player and current Director of Hockey Programming, Derek Armstrong, about how it all started and how they can hope it can continue.
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Camp Mexico City Jr. Kings marked the first time the Kings had returned to the Mexican capital since hosting 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 let the game grow … We found out that some kids skate, [so] If I come back this year, I’ll think it’s great, ”said Robitaille. “It will be important for us to keep going just to grow and then we’ll always be there. we [will] be present every year. “
Armstrong, who played for the Kings from 2002 to 2009, was hired by Robitaille five years ago to expand ice hockey around the world.
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“[We’ve] been all over the country and all over the world and the hockey game was so great for us, ”said Armstrong. “So that we can continue to expand the Kings and Hockey brand … we want to do a global sport like basketball and baseball.”
Almost 45 players, ages 5-16, attended the youth clinic at Centro Comercial Santa Fer in Mexico City.
“Once you go down and see the quality of the athletes down there, the hardest part of hockey is learning to skate. [but] Now they have ice rinks there [and] The rink we went to is one of the nicest facilities I’ve ever seen, ”said Armstrong. “As soon as we get kids to skate, I think it’s very important for the NHL, of course as well as the LA Kings, to make it a global brand and bring some other countries to play hockey with their better athletes.”
Armstrong said that he, along with Robitaille, believes the sport was much harder to grow in the early 2000s when the league added expansion franchises in Florida and Arizona, where “they didn’t know about hockey 15-20 years ago. ”
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“I think it’s a lot easier than you thought because nobody saw it before. You couldn’t get television. You didn’t have YouTube. We didn’t have Tik Tok or Twitter, ”said Armstrong. “Nobody would have known who I am” [before], now you can google us … it used to be impossible. If we go down there now, they can actually identify with the LA Kings. “