After waiting 38 years as a professional player, coach and scout to finally lift the Stanley Cup last spring, Rob Laird didn't mind waiting a few extra months to get his championship ring.
Because of the National Hockey League lockout, the former Komets player and coach and current Los Angeles Kings scout didn't receive his championship ring until March. He's been traveling almost constantly since, including flying to the World Championships in Stockholm and Helsinki, so he finally got back to Fort Wayne for a few days this week.
When some new neighbors asked about it last weekend, Laird was happy to show his new jewelry off.
``Everybody makes a big deal about it,'' Laird said. ``It's one of those things where you stop dwelling on it as soon as you are into the next season. Especially with our team, we're at a good age and we should be able to compete for the next few years. You're always looking at where you are today and what you can do next to maybe get a chance at another one.''
Laird was presented his ring at the Kings' pro scouting meetings in Manchester, N.H. Because he doesn't normally wear jewelry, it stays in a safety deposit box most of the time.
``I actually wore it in Manchester at the meetings for a few days because I didn't want to leave it in my hotel room,'' Laird said. ``This ring is just too big, and it stands out too much.''
Which it should. His wife, Madeleine, wore it recently as a necklace for a day at her business, H.O.P.E. for Animals.
Laird said receiving the ring was very nice, but being able to share the Stanley Cup with Fort Wayne last August probably meant more to him.
``I was just so thankful that we had the opportunity to bring it here,'' he said. ``And to get my name on the cup. There is only room for 52 names to go on the cup.''
Since winning the cup, Laird has been working to help make sure the Kings remain competitive the next few years. He's been focusing on the American Hockey League playoffs and will watch more games in the Chicago-Detroit series in the NHL.
``There are a couple of positional needs on our hockey team going forward, and I'm trying to rank, evaluate or break down players who could possibly fit via trade or free agency,'' Laird said. ``Our roster is pretty set for the next couple of years, but there might be a couple of holes we need to address.''
Players are ranked in categories such as varieties of skill, skating ability, age, position and anything else that can be measured in what Laird calls micro-scouting. If the Kings are looking for a left-handed defenseman to play with a current player, they can rank players based on who the scouts think will work best with the current player.
Then they try to evaluate the players based on the scout's gut feeling.
``I think the most important things are the intangibles that the players bring, and that's not going to show up on the stat sheet,'' Laird said. ``You have to look at body language, how hard he competes at a certain point in the game. There are little things that aren't going to show up on TV.
``You talk about character and you can analyze it in a lot of different ways, but it's really about how much a player cares. You see certain guys who it's just not there, and they aren't any different than they were in the regular season. Then you see other guys with that deep-down passion. Everybody has to step up at this time of year, and some guys do and some don't.''