Kings players stay focused on game amid off-ice issues

TORONTO -- The NHL is not accustomed to headlines involving arrests and court dates.

That’s normally for other sports leagues.

It is surreal that the Los Angeles Kings have had three separate off-ice incidents over the past 12 months considering the tight-knit, family fabric that the organization made its bones on while winning a pair of Stanley Cups.

But despite the arrests of Slava Voynov, Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards in separate incidents, the Kings very much intend to remain a family-type team.

"We definitely still strongly believe in having a tight-knit group in our room, having great chemistry," superstar Kings blueliner Drew Doughty told ESPN.com Tuesday during the NHL Player Media Tour. "Even though those things happened, we never at all lost that in any kind of way. It does suck that those types of things had to happen to L.A. Because we are such a good organization and do have a very good image, it’s unfortunate. But there’s nothing the players can do; we just have to rebuild that and get it to where it was."

Stoll and Richards are gone, while Voynov's future with the Kings is still up in the air. But whatever the case, the delicate balance for Los Angeles' players is to try to turn the page on a year of off-ice hell while not ignoring what transpired.

"In all three cases, it’s very unfortunate that it happened," Kings star center Anze Kopitar told ESPN.com Tuesday. "At the same time, while you think about it for a little bit, but then you have to move on. That’s just what it is. Enough time has passed in between that now where we can focus on the season now. We just have to do it. I hope everything turns out well for each and every individual. How’s it going to turn out? We’ll see. But for me personally, I think the team, now we have to look ahead and get focused on the season."

Easier said than done, as the closeness that’s existed in the Kings' locker room can create conflicting emotions regarding understanding what’s right and what’s wrong while wanting to be loyal to a pal. No easy answers there.

"I think for the players, we love those guys; those guys are our friends. We won two Stanley Cups with them, they’ll always be our friends," Doughty said. "But when it comes to those situations, our team, the players, we need to be able to focus on the game. Internally, we can discuss it, but for the most part, you’re just leaving it to management -- that’s what they’re going to deal with. We don’t have much to say about it because we don’t know much about it. We just focus on hockey and focus on ourselves."

There are lessons to be learned here, to be sure, from all that’s transpired. It was an eye-opener.

"The NHL and the NHLPA do a pretty good job with all the meetings and everything," Kopitar said. "But sometimes maybe you’re not paying enough attention to that. Maybe you think it’s impossible that stuff like that happens. And when stuff like that does happen, it just alerts you a little more. That’s just reality now with all the social media and everything. You just have to be careful, that’s the bottom line."

In general terms, it’s reinforced more than ever that a player’s off-ice conduct is under the microscope.

"Definitely, many lessons learned, especially with all the social media nowadays," said Doughty. "You have to be so careful. Whether it’s having a beer in a public place, they can turn that into anything in a matter of seconds, really. So it’s definitely been a learning thing for everyone on our team and a learning thing for everyone in the league, for that matter.

"It’s not a good thing it happened, but it’s a good thing we all learned from it, and not allow it to happen again."