Disclaimer: Other than being allowed to attend, I have no special inside knowledge or connections within the Kings’ organization. I simply attended the auditions and observed by permission/invitation and was allowed to interview many of the applicants.
While the rest of LA was burning up, I had the honor of attending the Ice Crew auditions this past weekend. While the first day was held at the Toyota Sports Center (where the ice kept it nice and chilly) and the second was inside a well air conditioned Gold’s Gym, the audition weekend was hot for a completely different reason. The competition was fierce. The energy was electric. And, of course, the girls (and guys) were all there in peak physical condition and dressed to the absolute nine’s. While the NHL draft was going on (I was providing updates to many of the applicants while they were going through the tests) another very important aspect of the Kings organization was having it’s own draft. These folks do so much inside Staples as well as in the community of Los Angeles and they were looking for the absolute best of the best.
The Kings organization takes this weekend very seriously. A lot of the biggest names and faces were there. Members of AEG were there to observe and Brooklyn, Bailey (who is one of the stealthiest lions around. Hence, you won’t see him in any pictures!) and Jay Flats were all on hand to be a part of the weekend. Carrlyn, who will not be coming back as a member of the Ice Crew next year, was also there working with Kings Vision and to provide some steadiness and confidence for the applicants.
Over 170 people showed up for the first day. According to Ryan, a veteran of last year, that was the biggest turnout they had ever had. The very first events were all done on the ice, as you might imagine. To kick off the day, Brooklyn (the Senior Manager of Game Presentation and Events and the driving force behind the Ice Crew) gathered the group together (primarily girls with a few guys in attendance) and gave them an introductory welcome speech. The highlight of her speech was, “We have one of the best Ice Crews in the NHL and aim to keep it that way.” She explained how the weekend would proceed, thanked everyone for coming out, then gave people a quick rundown of what the Ice Crew is all about. They have over 400 community events scheduled for next season that include working with Children’s Hospital of LA and King’s Care. If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t see the Ice Crew talking to the players during commercial breaks while they’re shoveling the ice, that was explained as well. “If you are joining the Ice Crew in order to get closer to or get to know the players, get that idea out of your head right now. We have a strict no fraternization policy.” Brooklyn then thanked everyone for coming out, explained how the weekend’s try outs would proceed, then turned it over to a few others while she backed off to better observe.
Day One (June 29th at Toyota Sports Center)
Day One Photo Gallery can be found here. Photos by German Alegria
The initial tests were very basic skating drills. While I say basic, they would have had me falling to the ice repeatedly. As time wore on, the skating drills became a bit more advanced. They then turned into extremely advanced drills. The applicants were instructed to skate in tight circles, quickly come to a halt and pose, etc. Many of the girls didn’t have very much skating experience but they threw everything they had it. As was explained to me later, Ice Crew members can be taught to skate so this doesn’t necessarily disqualify someone. After these drills, it turned to games which were quite enjoyable to watch. One group was playing with giant Frisbees while another played freeze tag. Everyone was obviously enjoying themselves and there were plenty of laughs to be had.
After this was concluded, the judges stepped out to deliberate. While this was going on, Jay Flats lead a free skate session. I took a few quick video clips of this. The video quality is not the greatest, but you can see the fun that was to be had!
If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, at least skip to the last 15 seconds or so.
As he usually does, Jay gets everyone smiling and laughing while doing crazy things. It reminded me of an ice rink full of high school students who badly need a night to relax. A lot of the tense feelings, nervousness and shyness melted away. Jay pushed them into situations where they had to open up with each other. He grabbed the mic (where he’s most comfortable) and announced various skating modes like you would hear at a skating rink. The exception would be that they were crazy. Jay asked them to impersonate elephants, grizzly bears, and then parking meters. He also told people to pretend like the person skating next to them smelled bad. He then moved on to, “Pretend like you want to ask the person next to you to dance. But you’re shy.” “Now, ask them to that dance.” “Now, couples skating!” “Now, backwards couples skating!” By the time this exercise was completed the room had been transformed. Gone were the nervous applicants who were worried about the competition. In just a few short hours the 175 applicants that stood before us had become fast friends. (Oh, and I caught the footage below of Jay getting down)
Then, the first round of cuts happened.
The judges (including Brooklyn and Bailey) came out and thanked everyone. Hands were twisting, lips all over the room were being nibbled on, and shuffling of skates on ice occurred. Each applicant had a number assigned to them. As numbers were called out, something pretty remarkable occurred. Normally, you would assume that these people would be crestfallen and dejected. Instead, there were a few laughs and smiles. Most of these folks hugged someone they had met during the course of the day as they prepared to skate off the ice. A few times I heard, “I had fun! It was good to meet you, see you next year.” The grace that most of the applicants displayed when cut was honorable and impressive. If you think about it, it isn’t all that surprising. Over 170 people showed up to compete for 25 spots. On top of that, they had a great time. While the rest of LA was dealing with extreme heat these girls got to spend several hours cavorting and enjoying themselves in an ice rink. I would be dishonest if I said they were all happy and accepting, but the applicants who skated off slowly and quietly were definitely among the minority.
From here, the girls were escorted to the bleachers and were taken in to be interviewed in groups of 3-6 at a time. I did not have access to the interview process, as you would assume is only proper. Jay Flats stayed outside of the interview room to keep the girls as calm as possible, as well as assisting in passing out the “golden tickets” that were given to the girls making it to the next round of auditions. This hallway was a bundle of nerves but Jay and Jake (veteran Ice Crew member from last year who is not coming back to the Ice Crew) spent quite a bit of time talking to the girls to keep them calm and prepared for their interviews.
Once these interviews were done, each group would wait just outside the room as the judges debated who would be coming back the next day and who would be going home. Then, either Jay, Vanessa (Ice Crew member from last year who is now doing other things within the Kings Organization) or one of the judges would come out and hand the “golden tickets” to the girls. At this point there were tears. Tears of joy/relief and tearful goodbyes were taking place as each group received their results.
During this time, I was able to interview quite a few of the girls (and a couple guys) as they waited to be called in for their group interviews. Below are some highlights, you can find the full interviews here:
Alexis Lauro, Veteran Trying Out Again
Arsee Hahn, Veteran Trying Out Again
Becky Patterson, Veteran Trying Out Again
Ryan Windish, Veteran Trying Out Again
Jessica Sanchez, Veteran Trying Out Again
What is your favorite Kings memory outside of winning the Stanley Cup?
Ryan: Leading the parade and all that was pretty amazing. The parade, or when Dustin Brown handed me the cup to hold over my head. That was pretty cool, not many people get that opportunity. I would say leading the Stanley Cup parade. Growing up in Philly, a hockey town. I’ve been a hockey fan my entire life. Being from Philly, they never win. I never got to see that or go to a parade until the Phillies won, which I did attend. When they told me I was going to be the first truck out on a Stanley Cup parade, that’s a dream come true. When I was little playing hockey, I had it a little different in my mind. Me playing on the ice, but this is pretty cool. Seeing the fan’s faces as we went down the street. When we first got out there and saw all the cop cars lining up and getting going, I was pumped. You can see that video on Kings Vision. They gave me a flip cam to tape the experience. That’s me screaming like a little girl. How many opportunities do you get like that? That’s why I keep coming back. For all of those wow moments. You’d think something like that would be enough. Winning the cup, nothing to gain. Last year was even more. Every year there’s something we can do bigger and better.
Arsee: The parade was pretty exciting. Definitely a moment I’ll take with me. For me, personally, my favorite experiences would have to be plural. I have been here for many years now and have built a very good relationship with a lot of the fans. They’ve kind of become family. You get to meet a lot of cool people with similar interests. They come to the games, and you look forward to seeing these people. These people are excited to see you. You get to know them besides a face to remember. They know a little bit about your life. They ask “how’s your dog?” “how was that trip you went on?” It’s a fun time to have a little family. Especially since I’m not from LA so it’s my home away from home.
Becky: Miracle on Manchester. It happened eight days before I was born, but I can still look back at it as my favorite moment in hockey history. It’s incredible to know the person who singlehandedly is the reason for that epic goal! It’s a privilege to know Daryl Evans and to have him work with us as our skate coach.
Alexis: The banner raising or perhaps the first time I got called to hear I made the team. The first time, I was crying. I was in the car with my two best friends and I’ll never forget that. I was not expecting it and I was so excited. Besides that, besides winning the cup, besides being in the calendar, besides all the CHLA visits. I don’t know. How could you sum that up?
Jessica: This might be a little biased, but probably my favorite Kings moment so far was my first game on the ice. April 11th against Colorado. We should have won that game hands down. Went to overtime and luckily we did win.
Your favorite event with the Ice Crew outside of Staples?
Ryan: My background’s in hockey. I’ve played my entire life. I love to go out and teach kid’s hockey. We did an event in Hawthorne a couple weeks ago. These were kids who had never seen a hockey stick before. They had never played a game. I got to teach them very basic things about it. They stayed out for over an hour knocking a ball around in the street hockey rink we have. Something like that, just putting the game out there and seeing the kid’s faces, how happy they were. We do a lot with CHLA. We brought our puck shoot, sticks there, and there’s a lot of kids that are sick there. Whatever they’re going through, they get to come out and have fun with us. Seeing them light up and get excited. Just getting to spend time with them. Staples games are fun, but that’s what’s rewarding to me and what makes this job great.
Alexis: My favorite, besides obviously working the games is working with the CHLA and King’s Care- they raised so much money. We as the Ice Crew and company have raised so much money. It’s so humbling to be able to give back to the community what with teaching kids how to play hockey, going to visit them at CHLA, donating blood. It’s incredible what they do. I love the golf tournament. Besides working golf, I like doing the Platelets for Playoffs.
Arsee: One of my favorite, most memorable events is an event we do with Delta Airlines. We have a big event called Holiday at the Hangar. They rent out a hangar at LAX to look like the north pole, like Santa’s land. All these children from CHLA get to actually board a plane, the windows are all blacked out. They can’t see where they are “flying” to. They show up there at the north pole in that hangar with the team and Santa and they get gifts. There’s people from the Lakers and Clippers and alumni Kings players. Their faces just light up. They even have a red carpet the children walk down, there’s fake snow falling on them. Just to see their eyes and have that moment. Knowing that we’ve supplied something they can’t afford to do. Maybe they can’t afford Christmas presents depending on the situation they’re currently at. It just inspires you. You feel very blessed and fortunate for everything you have when you get to do something like that.
How did you originally fall in love with hockey?
Alexis: I’m from SoCal, so it’s kinda strange that I grew up watching hockey. Both of my brothers grew up playing ice hockey and my family were season ticket holders for the Long Beach Ice Dogs. I don’t know if people still remember them. This was before the Ontario Reign. The Reign came after that because there’s obviously no Long Beach Ice Dogs anymore. It was in Long Beach, we lived in San Pedro. It was only a 20 minute drive there. That’s how I basically fell in love with ice hockey. And they had ice girls, too! I have a picture of me with a bunch of the ice girls and I have yet to find it.
Becky: I’m actually from Portland, so I feel like I fell out of the womb with skates on. I moved to LA to pursue school and fell in love with the Kings, of course. Hockey, in general, is everything I love. Fast paced, endurance of the players, it’s amazing.
Jessica: I think the moment I was conceived I was a King’s fan. My dad fell in love when he was in college. When he married my mom, she became a fan. They had me and my two sisters and we all became fans. I grew up watching hockey and that’s pretty much it. With my dad, I watched either King’s hockey or Tales of the Crypt.
After all of these group interviews were done, the day was over. The girls who had received “golden tickets” were to return the next day at Gold’s Gym as well as every male participant.
Day Two (June 30th at Gold’s Gym)
I arrived at Gold’s Gym shortly after the day’s events had begun. Today was focused on three things: Fitness tests, improv tests, and the female finalist interviews (happily for every male in attendance, they were bikini clad.) You can see the full photo gallery here. Photos were taken by German Alegria.
The improv tests were great. There were many talented people there and Jay had them going through some hilarious games. This was an opportunity for the people who had made it this far to showcase their abilities to work with crowds, skits, etc.
Following the improv tests were some pretty tough fitness tests. I became exhausted just watching everyone. If ever I wanted to feel really badly about myself, today was the day. These guys and gals went through some brutal tests the Gold’s Gym trainers put them through and did it while smiling and laughing and chatting away. After these tests, everyone had a short relaxation period while the judges (including Brooklyn and Bailey) deliberated. During this time, I had the opportunity to chat with Carrlyn and a few of the Kings Vision team members. Carrlyn was doing a great job of running around keeping people cheerful and happy while she did some interviews. The “Go Kings Go” chant she lead was one of the loudest I’ve heard EVER. Gold’s Gym members definitely heard the group if they hadn’t seen them at that point. I’m looking forward to Carrlyn doing more Kings Vision and In Arena work. She is loved by all and does a great job on the mic. Plus, the camera loves her! I’m sure with both Jay and Mike around her (both very experienced hosts/announcers) she’ll be able to get all the support needed to continue being a core component of the experience inside Staples during Kings games. This trio is incredibly talented and I look forward to seeing what the three of them can do in 2013-2014!
A group of cuts was made at this point. The people who were cut left amid some tears and some hugging. I went outside to chat with a few of the people who were cut. Several of them were hopeful for next year since they had made it so far this year. A few others were chatting about other ways they could stay involved with the charity/community work the Ice Crew gets involved in. Still others were silent as they contemplated the opportunity they had missed out on. The turnout this year was incredibly competitive and some great people will be coming back next year to display an even more fierce competitive spirit.
The guys group interviews started now while the girls went and changed into their bikinis for their final group interviews. The guys group was trimmed down to about 10 or so who would be going on to their one on one interviews to see if they would be part of the crew next season. These girls are extremely fit and worked very hard to be in shape for the Ice Crew tryouts. They also brought their A Game when it came to what swimsuits and heels they were wearing.
The girls took turns going in for their final group interviews. This was probably the most nerve wracking part of the day. This group of girls made it through every single test so far. The skating drills, the first group interview, the improv test, and the fitness test. Over 170 contestants had been trimmed down to 20 or so finalists. After each interview, Jay or Bailey came out and handed out the “golden tickets” that were indications of the girls passing this final test. This ticket was for an individual, one on one interview that would determine whether or not they would become a member of the Kings 2013-2014 Ice Crew.
During this time, I had the opportunity to interview Jay Flats about his experiences working with the Ice Crew and the Kings. You can see the full interview here. Below are some highlights:
Get inside the minds of the applicants, what are you feeling?
J: I’m sure they’re nervous. They’ve gone through almost an entire weekend of rounds of cuts after cuts. You can see the nerves on their faces when we announce whether or not they’re going to stick around. They still have to be nervous at this point. They still don’t have the job even if they get to the interview process- there’s still more to go. Even the veterans are nervous. I kinda like that. You have to fight for your job.
Even though these people are competing with each other and they’re strangers, they were instantly working together, befriending each other. Part of that is that it’s what the judges are looking for, but why do you think that is? What builds this culture?
J: You can see the camaraderie. They all have the same goal in mind. If you can make friends along the way, there’s nothing better than that. You can see them working together and rooting each other on and building that team atmosphere already which is what the judges have to be looking for. It is a team. You’re being a part of a team.
How did you fall in love with hockey? All the work you do across the country, why LA?
J: I grew up watching hockey in New England. Whalers, Bruins, Islanders, Rangers. Born and raised in New England. I didn’t play hockey very well because the equipment weighed more than I did. I was a scrawny little kid. I made a movement to pursue my entertainment career by coming to LA. I’ve been in 47 states. I’ve worked, spent the night in 47 states. I used to travel with the Harlem Globetrotters as an announcer. When I got back to LA, I knew I wanted to keep sports and entertainment together. A friend of mine told me about the Ice Crew, and I was like, that’s perfect, I’d be great for that. And then doing the Ice Crew I saw an opportunity to create the in arena host job that didn’t really exist. I’m rolling into my 5th year doing that, and I still love it.
Hottest crew on ice, why do you think that is? It’s not just about the girls being gorgeous, there’s more to it than that.
J: I think a lot of people don’t realize how much stuff the Ice Crew does. There’s hundreds of appearances everywhere in the community from CHLA to military to fire department vists. We really do raise a ton of money for Kings Care. And physically? Great, attractive group of people with great attitudes and you barely find a flaw as a team. One of the hardest working groups if they aren’t the hottest.
As the last girls were collecting their things (while being either overjoyed or a tad sullen) I could see some of the things that make this team as truly great as it is. Each person I spoke with was truly excited about the opportunity to take part in not only the games at Staples, but also the community work the Ice Crew does. One of the biggest answers I received as to why people were trying out was the opportunity to be a part of the community and charity efforts. Between Kings Care, Children’s Hospital of LA and everything else they do, the Ice Crew truly has a great impact in Los Angeles.
The guys and girls you see out on the ice or at various Kings events have gone through something incredible to get there. The competition was absolutely fierce. Just as many people experience after going through any sort of “boot camp” as it were, they were forged into a team that day. While people were still competing against each other for the limited number of slots available, they were already acting as a team. Everyone was drawn together with this shared vision of supporting the team and supporting the community of LA. The energy, drive and love of the sport was evident everywhere. If you were ever considering trying out for this team I say go for it. I want to see you at next year’s auditions with your game face on and dressed to the nine’s. This is a great team and it’s a great privilege and honor to be a part of it.
Again, I have no special insider information. This is the current status of the various Ice Crew members as best I’ve been able to confirm:
Carrlyn- Retired from the Ice Crew, moving on to other things in the Kings organization
Gabby- Retired from the Ice Crew. Moving on to other things.
Intcher- Retired, has moved on to other things
Jake- Retired, is hopefully working with Kings Vision and other aspects of the organization
Jessica- Moving on to other things (she’s still with the Galaxy Star Squad though, so go see a Galaxy game!)
Mike- Retired from the Ice Crew
Vanessa- Retired from the Ice Crew, is still working with the Game/Entertainment side of the organization
Cassie- I don’t believe she will be returning, but don’t quote me on that
Hailey- Unknown to me at this time
Priscillia- Unknown, but I don’t believe she’s coming back