In 1996 shortly after the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup, their backup goaltender, Stephane Fiset, was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. The trade was not a surprise, nor was Fiset upset.
“I was really happy,” recalls the 46-year-old from his home in Victoriaville, Quebec. “In Colorado, I was the one who asked for the trade. Patrick Roy was there, and my ice time was kind of done there, so I asked for a trade and when they called me to let me know I was traded to LA I was pretty happy.”
After having backed up Roy, one of the greatest netminders of all time, in Colorado, Fiset was in need of a change of scenery and more playing time. Los Angeles provided a great escape.
“The Kings, with Wayne Gretzky, were always tough, but it was always fun to go to LA to play the Kings especially because there was a superstar there, one of the best players in the world,” says Fiset about his memory of the Kings before the trade that brought him to the City of Angels.
One of the things that made the move to LA easy on Fiset, was his good friend, Steven Finn, who was already playing for the Kings at the time.
“I played with Steven Finn in Quebec and Colorado a little bit, and he was there in LA, so it was a little bit easier for me and my wife to get there and get used to the city,” Fiset shares. “Steven helped me a lot, so I was really pleased to get traded to LA.
“The only people who weren’t pleased were my in-laws,” Fiset says, with a laugh. “They thought it was really really far.”
His in-laws, who hailed from Victoriaville, did make the trip out to LA once a year, and although they came to enjoy the beach-front restaurants and the scenery LA had to offer, not speaking English posed a challenge.
For Fiset and his wife, however, a home in Manhattan Beach near his teammates provided a happy place. They had two young daughters during their time here and enjoyed places like Disneyland, Universal Studios, and short trips to Big Bear during the All-Star Break. With the array of sightseeing LA has to offer, Fiset was able to host out-of-town guests easily.
One of the things Fiset remembers best from his time with the Kings is the great class of professionals he was surrounded by.
“Luc Robitaille is from my hometown in Montreal, so I knew Luc and his family for a long time,” Fiset remembers. “He was great with me over there. Playing with Luc, he’s such a great player and a great guy, but you felt like you didn’t know he was a super star in the League. He was the same guy on the ice, off the ice, with the fans, with his teammates, with his friends – he was the same guy. Really down low, not quiet because he’s a funny guy, but it was a good time for me, playing with him, because he was a super star.”
It wasn’t just fellow players Fiset admired.
“Having a chance to be coached by Larry Robinson – a Hall of Famer – he was such a great guy behind the bench and a great guy for the players. Every time you had something that wasn’t going well for you, he felt bad too. He really was a players’ coach,” says Fiset, who played the better part of five seasons in a Kings jersey.
Rob Blake was also on Fiset’s list of favorite things from LA, and admits that there were many great players during his time here. Fiset has kept in contact with both Robitaille and Blake, and was at the jersey retirement ceremonies for both.
“I felt pretty lucky to get invited by them because they decide which players they want to be there,” reveals Fiset. “When I got the call from the LA Kings telling me that Luc and Rob wanted me over there I was kind of surprised, but I felt really good about it, and I had a chance to go back to LA.”
Fiset says he would again like to return with his family. One of his daughters was in school during the time Fiset played here, and his younger daughter was born here, and both would like to come back to visit the city where they grew up.
Currently a hockey player agent, Fiset still has his finger on the hockey pulse, and keeping tabs on the Kings has been a regular part of his life. Not only does he pay attention to the standings and what happens on the ice, but he uses his work as a means to get a closer perspective.
“When the LA Kings scouts are coming into town, I’m always asking them questions about the team and what’s going on and how they’re doing, so I keep following them,” Fiset concedes.
In addition to being an agent, Fiset is also currently working with a college team in his hometown, helping to develop the goalies and players. He has a house on a lake and during the summers he spends most of his time with his family, and on their boat on the weekends. Occasionally, he’ll get in a round of golf.
He still sees Finn a couple times a month, and also keeps in regular contact with former Kings teammate, Ian Laperriere.
“Most of the news from the old players my wife gets because she’s friends on Facebook with the wives,” Fiset says. “So she’s the one who’s telling me, and I get the news from my wife.”
Well adjusted after retiring from his playing career in 2002, it’s clear that Fiset reflects upon his time with the Kings organization fondly.
“The fans were always great with me. We had some good times and some bad times, there were some years that were more difficult than other years, but the fans have always been great with me, and I just want to say ‘thank you’ to them,” Fiset says. “I’m always going to remember my years I had there in LA, it was one of my best years in the NHL when I came to LA, so I just want to say thank you.’”