Interview with NHL legend and GRAHAM ambassador Luc Robitaille
As a Canadian, I keep an eye on hockey, especially if it involves some nice watches too. To celebrate the Kings becoming Stanley Cup Champions in 2014, GRAHAM introduced a special edition Silverstone RS LA Kings®, with each watch containing a piece of a hockey puck used at the championship winning game. For more details about this watch, check out our story here.
As the Kings came to Montreal to play with the Habs, I had the occasion to sit down in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton, to talk with the President of business operations of the LA Kings and GRAHAM brand ambassador, Luc Robitaille.
He’s a legend, winning the Stanley Cup in 2002 with the Red Wings, setting the NHL record for a left winger with 668 goals. During his many seasons with the Kings, he also managed to beat the team’s record with 577 goals.
In 2007, the Kings honoured him by retiring his number 20, that hangs in the rafters of Staples Center and in 2009, he was introduced into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
I knew these numbers, but I was not sure what to expect when I will meet him in person. I heard from my friends that he’s super nice, down-to-earth guy and as he approached me, the big smile on his face confirmed these rumours.
WP: Thanks a lot for taking the time to meet me. Let’s start by talking about GRAHAM’s partnership with the LA Kings. It is quite a unique partnership, we have a major watch brand and an NHL team. I would be curious to know how this partnership came along?
Luc Robitaille: We started talking in 2012, actually before we won the cup. I can’t remember who knew who first, but I remember meeting with Eric, the owner of the company and Samir (Samir Shah is the Managing director of GRAHAM USA) who works in LA, and I think Samir was a big fan of the Kings. We started talking to see, what it would make sense for their brand and in the same time, they started showing us their products. For us, the Kings, it was important to get a high-end brand, we knew that we’re an up-and-coming team, we wanted to have that cool factor, that’s how the talk came. They came to our office and they showed us the technology and the different patents they have on their watches. We really liked it and everything evolved from there.
When we won the cup, it was really cool, because they asked us to do a special Stanley Cup watch and we were like, “Yeah! This is awesome!”
Our fans really got behind it, because they enjoy anything that can be this special.
Since March, you are yourself an ambassador of GRAHAM, how this changed your approach to watches, or did it affected it at all?
I always had nice watches, but I never really payed attention to it until they started breaking it down of how much work is behind it, I realized, “Oh God! I better pay attention!”. You start appreciating the craftsmanship behind the watch. For me it has been a lot of fun, I do believe that GRAHAM is great company and I enjoy being part of their family.
When you look at a watch, what is more important for you, is it the design or it’s the functionality of the watch?
If I like the look and if I feel comfortable wearing it, like I never take this watch off — showing me the GRAHAM Chronofighter Oversize LA Kings on his wrist — everybody knows this is my watch. It is a great story too, because of the Stanley Cup logo. So it’s probably the comfort and the look that is important for me.
For you it’s also important the story behind it.
Yes, if it’s meaningful. For me this watch is very meaningful! I don’t want to switch watches, I don’t want to wear another watch.
I was wondering, have you had the chance to visit GRAHAM, the factory?
No, not yet. We were supposed to go last year, but there were some last minute changes that canceled the trip. We try to make something, maybe next summer, my wife and I, we’re looking forward to it.
What is it that you lake about GRAHAM, either about the brand or about the watch?
Just by looking at their watches, you can tell that they have that racing background, I know that Eric is a racer at his heart and I think because of that, the functionality of the watch and its look, it’s all about sports, which personally, I really like. The personality of the guy who owns the company is embedded in the watches, which I find really cool.
Do you have a collection of watches?
I do have a few watches, most of them are watches that I got as a gift. I have a watch that I received when I scored my 600th goal in the NHL, that one I got from my team mates. My wife gave me a watch, years ago, but now I’m only wearing this one. I’m not that kind of guy to swap things, I stick to what I like.
Let’s talk a bit about hockey. The world of hockey is mourning the loss of Jean Béliveau and I’m wondering if you had the chance to meet him in person and would you share with us some personal memories about “Le Gros Bill”?
I had the opportunity to meet him a few times, to me meeting Jean Béliveau was like meeting a royalty. People ask me, what did he say? I don’t remember, I just remember saying “hello Mr. Béliveau!” and paying so much respect, because we felt that we are meeting someone special, like the Governor or the Prime Minister, that was such a strong feeling. It was pretty interesting.
People always talk about class and respect, but he was really like that, he would never turn down to shake a hand, he would never turn down autographs, he was patient with people, he treated everyone like if they would been part of his family. Maybe that’s they way the Queen of England would be, everyone is part of her kingdom. The same way, everyone was part of Jean Béliveau’s Canadian kingdom.
To me, it was always felt like that. Then, you look at the funeral, I was there, and you go “Wow!”, he was that special!
About the Kings, you guys won in 2012, in 2013 you get to the semifinals, 2014 you are champions again, what is the secret?
We have good players, that’s the most important. When we started building this team with Dean Lombardi, we wanted to change the culture. We wanted to make sure that the LA Kings stand for something. We made sure to do everything right, the way we treat the players and in the same time, we change our mentality, everything is geared towards trying to be the best. You never know if you are going to win the Championship, but you have to try every day and to this day, that’s what we stand for. Our players too, that’s what they stand for.
It was kind of funny, last night, when I get here, I was like, “Damn! They are staying at the Ritz Carlton! It’s really nice!” That’s what we stand for as an organization, we want to do everything first class and in return we expect our players to give 100% everyday.
It’s been a fun ride so far.
How do you see this season so far and what are your expectations?
It’s up and down, every year we go through ups and downs. we play it differently, we play very hard, we are patient and when we stick to what we believe in, we usually turn it around. We had a few losses. We lost a guy last year on defence, we lost Slava Voynov this year, like every team that has to fight trough injuries, that has to fight trough problems, but in the same time we understand that it’s important to stay with the pack.
Luc, thank you very much! It was a great pleasure talking to you! Let me wish you guys the best of luck for the rest of the season!
To find out more about GRAHAM’s partnership with the LA Kings, head over to www.graham1695.com