LA Kings Hockey Development

The Los Angeles Kings, a franchise of the National Hockey League, began play in 1967 and has called Downtown Los Angeles’ STAPLES Center home since 1999. More than 650 men have played for the Kings, and the team has won two Stanley Cups—in 2012 and 2014. The LA Kings Hockey Development department strives to increase the number of hockey players in the Los Angeles area and is a resource for skill development.

Through hockey curriculum guided directly by the Player Development Department, skills, techniques and concepts taught to the Kings players are also taught to children and teens in age- and skill-appropriate formats. Offerings by LA Kings Hockey Development include camps, learn-to-play programs, a hockey club, hockey leagues, on-ice game night activities, and interactive community events such as street hockey clinics, and hockey tutorials.

LA Kings Hockey Development is operated by Derek Armstrong, the director of hockey curriculum who played professional hockey for 15 years, and Courtney Ports, the manager of Hockey Develop-ment who has worked for the Kings for the past decade.

What programs do you offer for children?

“The LA Kings offer camps and clinics for children ages 5 to 18. We work with all different skill levels from beginner to advanced. We know that Southern California is not known as a traditional hockey market, so getting kids on the ice at a young age and getting them acquainted with our great game in any way possible is very important to us. We remain very active at the grass-roots level.”

What feedback do you get from your youngest customers?

“Our goal is to create a fun yet educational hockey experience. We have kids skating around with smiles saying, ‘This is so much fun! I can’t wait to come back next year.’ When you see and hear that, it makes it all worth it. It also brings you back to when you were their age. It is a special feeling—that is for sure!”

Does “edu-tainment” describe what you offer?

“Our pro competition camp in Santa Barbara is pure edu-tainment. We offer 15 hours of on-ice training to develop all different skills, as well as some exciting off-ice activities such as ping-pong, a beach day and other fun-filled games.

Yes, we focus on hockey, but we also want to create a special, unique environment for them whether they continue to play the game as they get older or even if they advance to a college or pro career. Hockey in Santa Barbara is pretty cool and something very unique that the LA Kings offer.”

How do you find the necessary energy to keep up with your young customers?

“It takes a LOT of energy to keep up, but you see the kids learning and improving year after year. They are eager to learn and get better, and they also have a lot of fun. The endless energy they exude rubs off on our entire staff. It is also our goal to channel their energy in the right direction.”

How do you ensure your team is happy in their work?

“Luckily for our department we all have a love and passion for the game of hockey. It’s really difficult to call it work when you are out on the ice, kids are smiling and having a ton of fun, and you’re working for a two-time Stanley Cup championship team. The work itself keeps us happy. We say that this beats getting a real job. We feel very fortunate.”

What is the #1 way your business helps children become productive adults?

“The LA Kings have a set of core values: Family. Integrity. Passion. Excellence. Those are important to us on the whole, and they are important to us in particular as they relate to every event. At each event we stress the importance of life skills such as hard work, punctuality and responsibility. Everyone is expected to be a good teammate. We teach and expect these things from all the kids we interact with.”

Tell us about a recent success story with one of your clients.

“We held a youth hockey camp in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and we were fortunate to work with a young goaltender at that camp. Once our trip ended his father took the time to tell us how much his game has improved. That type of feedback is critical to us. We have another camp there this summer, and this young goalie—and his sister—have both registered for it. We love the continuity and the growth.”