The Kings will host the 2017 NHL All-Star game at Staples Center, an event they pursued to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the team's entry into the NHL and to further promote a sport that has taken strong root in Southern California on the youth and professional levels.
Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement Saturday. This year's All-Star game will be Sunday at Bridgestone Arena.
Bettman said selecting the Kings to host the annual showcase on Jan. 29, 2017 — and stage the festivities that precede the game itself — made sense on many levels. "There are lots of reasons. We can start with the fact that they wanted it really badly," Bettman told The Times. "But also we want to use this as an opportunity to use all the facilities surrounding Staples Center and L.A. Live. And they will be well integrated into the centennial celebrations."
The NHL will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017 and will hold many events to mark the occasion.
"We have lots of things planned, but putting our All-Star game on the huge stage that L.A. affords us we think will be an important part of the celebration," Bettman said. "Couple that with the extraordinary organization that AEG has, both with the Kings and the Staples Center and the access we have to all the facilities at L.A. Live. We think this will be an exciting way to once again celebrate our sport."
This will be the Kings' third experience hosting the NHL All-Star game, which was played at the Forum in 1981 and at Staples Center in 2002. The construction of L.A. Live since then gives the Kings and the league many facilities they didn't have before and can use for concerts and other fan-friendly events. The 2002 game made use of the Convention Center, which will be used again.
"I think our vision of it, it's about the growth of the game," said Luc Robitaille, the Kings' president of business operations. "Our team has been amazing. Winning has been great. But everything that we're doing, we're looking to grow the game we love so much. And to have a premier event in Los Angeles, where you get to bring the best players in the world, it's really about celebrating the stars.
"I know it was done before but the league and us, we want to work together on making something even grander and bigger."
Like Nashville, which is featuring many musical acts this weekend to showcase its country music heritage, the Kings are likely to hold concerts and other events that will tap into the talent of Hollywood.
"We have everything open now for the NHL. Everything is open for them to choose what they want to use," Robitaille said. "We understand how important it is for us to have the opportunity to make things bigger and grander around it."
Robitaille said the Kings approached the league "a while back" about hosting the game and that league officials were receptive to the idea. The last major league event the NHL awarded to Staples Center (excluding the Stanley Cup Final) was the 2010 entry draft. "We wanted something big for our fans," Robitaille said.
The Kings brought many high-level staff members to Nashville to observe events this weekend and evaluate which are successful enough to be duplicated or adapted next year in Los Angeles. "They're doing a lot of great things here but we want to make it better and bigger next year," Robitaille said.
Bettman said the 2017 All-Star game will feature elements unique to Los Angeles, as did the California-themed touches put on Dodger Stadium for the Stadium Series game between the Kings and the Ducks in January 2014.
"All of our events are tailored to where we are and we never do anything on a cookie-cutter basis," he said. "Think of the way we dressed up Dodger Stadium. It looked like no other outdoor game that we conducted. So we will get through and complete what we think will be an enormously successful All-Star weekend here in Nashville and then we'll start focusing on next year."
The format, he said, will depend in part on how well this year's format is received. The NHL for the first time will hold a division-based three-on-three tournament instead of a traditional game, and Bettman said that change — as well as other features of the weekend — will be evaluated before plans are made for the game in Los Angeles.