Amherstburg’s own Kevin Westgarth

By Joel Charron

It wasn’t exactly how he envisioned his homecoming.

For the first time in his NHL career, Amherstburg native and Los Angeles Kings right-winger, Kevin Westgarth was in the lineup when the Kings took on The Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena Saturday night.

The Kings dug their hole early in the opening period, going down 2-0 in the opening minutes.

The Wings won the bout 8-2.

“That’s embarrassing,” said Westgarth, after the game. “We come into this building looking to right the ship but obviously we didn’t do that tonight.  It was a bad game by us and we understand that. It’s embarrassing to lose 8-2 to anybody.”

It’s been quite the journey for the 6’4” 234 pound Westgarth.


Kevin Westgarth plants himself in front of Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick during practice Friday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.

Westgarth began his hockey career in Amherstburg Minor Hockey, playing travel for the Stars. It’s a time Westgarth remembers fondly and noted that the foundation of his hockey prowess began “at the old barn.”

“We never ended up winning All-Ontario or anything but we had some great years,” said Westgarth. “It was a fun place to play growing up.”

In was in Amherstburg Minor Hockey that Westgarth learned a valuable lesson: hard work and persistence can go a long way.

“I know it sounds a little cliché but there is a reason that so many people say those things,  because it’s true,” he said. “In sports you need to work hard and bring it every night if you want to win. We always had to work hard to win our games and achieve our success.”

That mantra still sticks with him today. After the end of the Kings practice on Friday afternoon, Westgarth was the last skater off the ice.

While the Amherstburg Stars run deep into Westgarth’s blood, so do the General Amherst Bulldogs.  Westgarth recalls scoring the overtime winning goal against Villanova to win the WECSSAA Championship.

“That was one of the best moments of my career,” admits Westgarth.

Westgarth’s picture along with his brother, Brett hangs in the lobby at General Amherst.

Not really known for his skill, Westgarth realized while playing Junior B hockey his road to

the NHL would have to be paved by his fist.

“I knew I could score a bit but I saw other guys who are the same age as you making the jump to the OHL and scoring whatever number of goals,” he explained. “I thought, ‘I don’t think I’m going to be a top six guy.’ I knew if I wanted to get there my fists would have to be part of my game.”

In the post-lockout era, enforcers are required to be all-around hockey players and not simply a rock’em sock’em robot on skates. These are all factors that Westgarth has to weigh every time he steps onto the ice. Westgarth isn’t the smoothest of skaters, but he can get around the ice and although he doesn’t necessarily have a scorer’s touch, his wrist shots can be dangerous.

Westgarth had a chance to work on his skill at Princeton University, where in the NCAA,

Always trying to improve his skills, Westgarth stays on the ice long after others have gone into the locker room .

fighting is prohibited. Westgarth scored 10 goals in 29 games as a junior for the Tigers in 2005-06.

“I didn’t have to fight, so I was able to work on my skills with high quality hockey players for four years,” he said. “It’s been invaluable in my development.”

Westgarth said the term “goon” doesn’t bother him however it’s a term that he thinks gets a negative reputation.

“It’s somewhat of a passé term. It implies that you can’t play hockey,” said Westgarth. “But anyone who fights in the NHL has to able to play quite well. If you have only four guys on the ice essentially if that fifth guy isn’t doing anything you’re going to get scored on every time. The game is so tight now you can’t afford to do that.”

On Nov. 23, after 73 games, Westgarth’s hard work paid off in the form of his first NHL goal, on a sharp wrist shot from the left faceoff circle against the Dallas Stars.

“It’s one of those things when you score, it seems so easy like I want to do this more often,” joked Westgarth. “Anytime I actually beat the goalie it’s like ‘that was easy’ but to get there it takes a lot of time and some chances.”

Westgarth said it was his mother that pointed out the irony in his goal.

“My mom pointed out that I ended up scoring against the Stars,” he laughed. “I started my career with the Stars and got my first goal against the stars, that was kind of funny.”

Westgarth’s first goal even gained the attention of CBC commentator Don Cherry, who gave props to the 27-year-old on “Coach’s Corner.”

“I look forward to getting the next one in less than 73 games,” he joked.

Understandably, Westgarth doesn’t make it home too much during the season; however in the offseason he tries to make it back for a few weeks to visit family and friends.

Westgarth said he has had a chance to visit the United Communities Credit Union Complex and called it a “truly phenomenal facility” that will only enhance the hockey experience for all generations of Amherstburg Minor hockey players.


Westgarth is not only the first Amherstburg native to play in the NHL but also the first to score a NHL goal

Upon learning that a few of his old Amherstburg Stars teammates are pushing to have his old number 15 retired, Westgarth was at a loss for words.

“That’s really humbling and unbelievable,” he said. “I’d be more than honored. I really couldn’t explain or put into words how cool that would be. Amherstburg gave me a ton, that’s my hometown and to get that honour, that would be amazing.”

Although, Westgarth has already reached his goal of playing in the NHL, there is still something missing, a Stanley Cup.

“Outside of family, my goal in life is the Stanley Cup,” he said. “That would be the height of a dream realized.”

Although, Westgarth would have wanted a better outcome than an 8-2 loss in front of family and friends Saturday night, the significance of the event was not lost on him.

“It’s great, it’s always nice to play so close to home. But obviously we want to have a better effort and result than that,” said Westgarth.

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