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Two former long-time LA Kings and NHL defensemen, Lubomir Visnovsky and Sean O’Donnell, along with Willie O’Ree, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018, will be honored at STAPLES Center this season as part of the Legends Night Series.
About the Legend – Lubomir Visnovsky
Visnovsky’s, a native of Topolcany, Slovakia, began his NHL career when the Kings selected the defenseman in the fourth-round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He had such an impessive first season that he was named to the NHL All Rookie Team later that year for his performance. With the Kings, the offensive-minded player competed in 499 regular season games and 12 additional playoff contests.
He represented the Kings at the 2007 NHL All-Star Game and ranks in the top-five among all Kings defensemen in points, power-play goals and game-winning goals in franchise history.
He was named the club’s Top Defenseman for three years in 2003-04, 2005-06, 2006-17 and is the only Kings defenseman to ever lead the team in scoring in a single season in 2005-06. That year he also won the Bill Libby memorial award as the was voted the team’s most valuable player.
Visnovsky was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team after leading all NHL rookie defensemen in scoring with 39 points (he finished fourth overall in rookie scoring). He was also named the team’s Best Newcomer in 2002.
He played for four NHL teams (Kings, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and the New York Islanders), and his many international highlights include Olympic appearances in 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010.
About the Legend – Sean O’Donnell
O’Donnell played in 1,224 NHL regular season games during his 17-year playing career. The defenseman played 541 of those games in a Kings uniform, enjoying two different stints with the team from 1994-2000 and 2008-10.
Originally drafted by the Buffalo Sabres, the Ottawa native never played in Buffalo as he was acquired by the Kings on July 26, 1994 for Doug Houda.
A few months later, O’Donnell made his NHL debut, and the 1994-95 season was the first of six straight seasons he played in Los Angeles, where he ranks sixth all-time in games played among defensemen while also ranking sixth overall in penalty minutes all-time.
His NHL playing resume also includes time with Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, Phoenix Coyotes and Minnesota Wild, where he served as that franchise’s first team captain.
A tough, stay-at-home defenseman, O’Donnell’s career was never about the scoresheet, but he was one the club’s most dependable and durable on-ice performers.
For three seasons, between 1997 and 2000, O’Donnell was the only Kings player to appear in at least 80 games each season, and when he returned to the team in 2008 he averaged 80 games played over those two seasons.
Then, in 1999 he was named the co-recipient (with Rob Blake) of the team’s annual Community Service Award, the same year he led the Kings in penalty minutes.
One of O’Donnell’s crowning NHL achievements came in 2007 when he won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Ducks.
Upon retirement O’Donnell joined the FOX Sports West team as an analyst for Kings games, and he currently works in the Kings’ Player Development department.
About the Legend – Willie O’Ree
On January 18, 1958, Willie O’Ree became the first black player to compete in the NHL. O’Ree, who lost sight in his right eye after being hit by a puck at a young age, went on to play professional hockey for 21 years.
His perseverance is unrivaled, and his impact on the game and the lives of young players is still felt today. In addition to his time playing in the NHL, O’Ree established a long and successful playing career in Southern California.
He played six seasons (1961-67) with the minor league Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and parts of seven more seasons (1967-74) with the San Diego Gulls (WHL).
He currently resides in San Diego. Since 1998, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.
Working directly with youth, he travels across North America to schools and hockey programs, sharing his story and experiences to help underprivileged, marginalized and disadvantaged children build confidence, character and life skills.
In June 2018, the NHL created the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, which recognizes an individual who – through the game of hockey – has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society.
This November, O’Ree will be formally inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder category.