Skip to content

On Los Angeles being a ‘hockey town’

Aug 9, 2013, 4:35 PM EST

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 14: Jordan Nolan #71 of the Los Angeles Kings waves to fans in the midst of confetti falling down during the Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup Victory Parade on June 14, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) Getty Images

“When I started the Kings, I was told there were a quarter-million ex-Canadians in L.A. Now I know why they left Canada. They hate hockey.”
     —– Jack Kent Cooke

Not only is today the 25th anniversary of Wayne Gretzky being traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles, it’s also Kings day on PHT. So let’s take a moment to talk about L.A. and its place in the hockey landscape.

When the Great One arrived in Southern California in the summer of 1988, it created a buzz in the area that the game had never managed to create before.

“I think this is a great day for hockey in L.A.,” winger Dave Taylor said, per the Los Angeles Times. “Wayne Gretzky’s going to put some people in the seats. We just got the best player in the world.”

Taylor was right. Attendance for Kings games at the Great Western Forum jumped from an average of 11,667 in 1987-88 to 14,875 in 1988-89. By 1991-92, the place was officially jammed (16,005 capacity) every night.

But even with Gretzky, the Kings were never able to achieve their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup. After he was traded to St. Louis in 1996, attendance fell again — not quite back to the old levels, but in the neighborhood.

To be fair, the team wasn’t very good. In fact, after making it to the Cup finals in 1993, the Kings missed the playoffs in 11 of the next 15 seasons.

Fast forward to 2009-10, and with improved regular-season success came improved attendance — an average of 17,313 that year at the Staples Center.

This past season, following the Cup win, the Kings played to full capacity, averaging 18,178.

Yet when former team governor Tim Leiweke left to take the top executive job in Toronto, here’s what he had to say: “It took us getting to the finals in order to awaken that town. It’s not a hockey town.”

Kings fans who had supported the team while he was there were understandably upset.

With all that in mind, here’s our take:

Los Angeles isn’t a hockey town. Not in the sense that Toronto — or any other Canadian city for that matter — is a hockey town.

Nor is Los Angeles a hockey town like Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, or Detroit.

And to that we say…who cares? That’s nothing against Kings fans — clearly, there are enough of those to fill the rink. Plus, all the locals who support the Ducks.

Los Angeles just has a richer tradition in other sports. The Lakers have won 10 titles since moving to L.A. in 1960. Bit hard to compete with that. Not to mention the challenge of competing with the weather.

Los Angeles is a hockey town in the sense that there are enough Kings fans to make attending games a fun experience. It wasn’t always like that, but it is now.

So, you know…enjoy what you have, Kings fans.

Whatever it is.

  1. qauzaq - Aug 9, 2013 at 4:52 PM

    All I know is I’ve lived in LA all my life and there are some great fans. It’s a lot of fun going to games with the kings fans there.

  2. loinstache - Aug 9, 2013 at 4:58 PM

    It’s not a hockey town, but you were right to point out that it’s diluted by the multitude of other successful franchises in LA. There are most definitely Kings fan who go beyond their recent success.

    I hear Kings fans who get exasperated at other fan bases for constantly labelling them as bandwagoners. I do sympathize with them; as you’ve pointed out LA hasn’t hurt in attendance for years.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that around the time they won the cup, there were suddenly a multitude of dudes at bars wearing Lakers jerseys with backwards Kings caps loudly trash talking every team. It’s like the team was minted as the uniform for bros who watched hockey between MMA matches.

    • sjsblitz - Aug 9, 2013 at 5:28 PM

      As a person that has friends that have supported LA through the bad times I can personally say it has way too many bandwagoners. It says alot when you ask a person with a Dustin Brown jersey on what wing Brown plays or who played goaltender before Quick and you receive a puzzled look. That terrible team I love to hate deserves more than that…

  3. billyhauntswizards - Aug 9, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    “hockey town” might not be the right word but there’s definitely some great fans there. Kings games seem to always be exciting in gameplay and the atmosphere, fan support has been pretty strong for a while there. Then again, it’s pretty easy to build a fanbase in Los Angeles. But the Kings definitely have a good fanbase.

    • tdrusher225 - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:27 PM

      It’s almost like a cult. The true fan base isn’t very large in comparison to other “hockey towns”, but the loyal fans are absolutely rabid and devoted to the team. That sect is full of great fans, and they’re anything but bandwagoners, and I think many of the casual fans and the city itself gives those fans a bad name.

  4. blackhawks2010 - Aug 9, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    LA supports a winner, if a team there drops below .500, forget it….bandwagon.

    • billyhauntswizards - Aug 9, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      they had 92 percent attendance when they were one of the worst teams in the league. not sure about that.

    • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Aug 13, 2013 at 10:44 AM

      bandwagoner is someone who changes the team he cheers for. You’re talking about fairweather fans… the fans who disappear when the team’s not winning.

  5. girouxed - Aug 9, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    Hockey’s not the most popular sport out there… But there’s still a bunch of fans… That’s all that really needs I be said

  6. hockeyflow33 - Aug 9, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    It’s not even a sports town. I don’t care what you throw out for attendance figures but regardless of the sport, the people come late to the game and leave early; those aren’t fans.

    • ron05342 - Aug 9, 2013 at 7:33 PM

      Typical moronic cliché statement from a moron who doesn’t know Los Angeles or its dedicated fans at all.

      Or more likely, just a hater.

      • blomfeld - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:51 PM

        ‘Stand Down’ Ron from your anger …

        this Hockeyflow33 creature is an ‘agent of upset’ and therefore he’s now drawn the attention of my gun captains … so suffice it to say that his days at this ‘electronic’ forum are now numbered … comrade Blomfeld

      • hockeyflow33 - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:53 PM

        It’s not cliche, it’s true. Watch a Dodgers, Lakers or Kings game. Your eyes will tell you they are anything but dedicated.

    • zfeint - Aug 12, 2013 at 1:27 AM

      Have we met? No? Then I don’t appreciate you saying I go to games late… and leave early. I go early and leave late. I travel to see the Kings play. I now live in Michigan, and I will go to every away game within a 12 hour drive. I am getting my passport so I can watch the Kings play in Canada. I love the Kings and I will do what it takes to see them play. I, along with my family, support the Kings heavily, and some random clown like you comes out and bashes every fan? It’s funny. Before the Cup, people made fun of me for being a Kings fan… now they call me a bandwagon fan. You elitist piss me off. So many of you punks move out to California and bash everything about California, or anywhere that’s not their state. I don’t mean to ramble, but I’m getting fed up with this ignorant attitude toward California sports fans. I follow the Los Angeles Kings. I follow the San Diego Chargers. I get looked at weirdly at here. So what? I’m proud to be a fan of those teams; I’d rather take the bashing than to be as sour as you people. I actually picked up hockey while out in California and play as a goalie. Proudly rock the Kings hat to the local rinks. GO KINGS!!

      • hockeyflow33 - Aug 12, 2013 at 12:41 PM

        waaaah

      • zfeint - Aug 13, 2013 at 11:47 PM

        Thank you for your reply, hockeyflow33. Always a treat to talk with fellow hockey fans in a respectful manner.

  7. cardsandbluesforever - Aug 9, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    I would definitely say its a “bandwagon” hockey town. most people in LA forgot they even had a hockey team till the season before last.

    blomfield- if you do post to the comments on this story, why don’t you shock the hockey world by NOT embedding a video to your post?

    • ron05342 - Aug 9, 2013 at 7:39 PM

      I am sure you are qualified to speak of L.A.’s hockey team all the way from St. Louis.

      No, you are not. I am one of those Kings fans that support the Blues’ in their quest for a first Cup, because we are a kindred spirit.

      Well, most Blues’ fans anyway. Not morons like you who chose to generalize without knowing the full scope of what being a Kings fan is all about. Its not far away from being a true, long-time Blues fan. Those fans can relate.

      Apparently, you cannot.

    • blomfeld - Aug 10, 2013 at 12:03 AM

      AS YOU PLEASE …

      cardsandbluesforever – Okay pal, so check this out. Despite being an ‘ardent, sexy and values-driven’ supporter of the LA Kings since 1973, I’m nonetheless a humble, red-blooded Canadian man who’s proud to say that I dig ‘fine’ women, good ‘societal’ behavior and the ‘glorious’ Kings of Los Angeles ! Most of these metro freaks here in “V” town couldn’t get their heads around that if their lives depended on it. But “F” them I say … just as I do to you !

      now check out this video ‘specially’ selected for you ….

      ” ……………………………………………………………………………………..”

    • zfeint - Aug 12, 2013 at 1:29 AM

      I am copying this from an earlier comment I posted::. I travel to see the Kings play. I now live in Michigan, and I will go to every away game within a 12 hour drive. I am getting my passport so I can watch the Kings play in Canada. I love the Kings and I will do what it takes to see them play. I, along with my family, support the Kings heavily, and some random clown like you comes out and bashes every fan? It’s funny. Before the Cup, people made fun of me for being a Kings fan… now they call me a bandwagon fan. You elitist piss me off. So many of you punks move out to California and bash everything about California, or anywhere that’s not their state. I don’t mean to ramble, but I’m getting fed up with this ignorant attitude toward California sports fans. I follow the Los Angeles Kings. I follow the San Diego Chargers. I get looked at weirdly at here. So what? I’m proud to be a fan of those teams; I’d rather take the bashing than to be as sour as you people. I actually picked up hockey while out in California and play as a goalie. Proudly rock the Kings hat to the local rinks. GO KINGS!

  8. ron05342 - Aug 9, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    http://video.kings.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=177451

  9. ron05342 - Aug 9, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    To those of us who have supported and been a Kings fan from the very beginning, it doesn’t matter to me what you want to call it…hockey town or not a hockey town.

    I will tell you this: some of the most rabid fans in Los Angeles are Kings fans. I was there for the sweep-clincher against St. Louis, and I don’t know if Staples was ever louder. We were trying to bring the walls down, and almost succeeded.

    The only reason the Stanley Cup clinching game wasn’t that loud (and it was very loud anyway), was because the outcome had not been in doubt since the 1st period.

    I had already been a Kings fan for 21 years and was part of the old school that delineated itself from BG to AG.

    The Kings BG built the character of the team that still rides high in our minds and souls today, in 2013. Gretzky may have given the Kings a Stanley Cup contender, but the true character of the team was built on the foundation of Cowboy Flett, Eddie Joyal, Frenchy Lemieux, Mike Corrigan, Eddie Shack, Whitey Widing, Butch Goring, Bob Berry, Bob Pulford, Rogie Vachon, Terry Harper, Don Kozak, and countless others I am sure I am leaving out (old age will do that to you).

    Who among us that were fans back then will ever forget that 1975 season? Or that unbelievable series against Boston in 1976? And, of course, that incredible series against Edmonton (with G) in 1982 that included the Miracle on Manchester?

    Man, those were some exciting times, all BG. So yeah, call me an old curmudgeon who bristles at the idea that Gretzky brought hockey to southern California. No doubt he made it more popular than ever before. But for 21 years before that, the Los Angeles Kings were still full of excitement and surprises that most of us OGs will never forget.

    • blomfeld - Aug 10, 2013 at 12:16 AM

      Ron … if I recall correctly, we finished with 105 points that year back in 74-75, which is our most ‘glorious’ total to date … above you mention so many of my old heroes … and so I’ll leave this by saying that ‘you’ sir are counted among our most faithful of ranks ! :)

      GO RON !!!

      GO ALL ‘TRUE’ LA KING’S FANS !!!!!!!

  10. bullwinkle88 - Aug 9, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    Let me tell you something that most of you don’t know:

    Buffalo is a bigger hockey town than Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, or Detroit! I wouldn’t even put LA in the same sentence.

    Obviously not in population, but in viewer percentage Buffalo is ALWAYS up there in the national ratings above any other American city (excepting the two playing).

    THAT my friends, is a true Hockey Town!!!

    • pxland - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:56 PM

      Buffalo, true hockey town, or lack of other options…. You make the call.

    • kaptaanamerica - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:07 PM

      True, buffalo is a hockey town. There’s a lot of Sabres talk on the sports station 550AM that I’ve heard. Lots of Sabres fans across the border as well who go watch games. Personally, I prefer them to the Toronto team any day. Toronto fans are the worst.

    • clefty1 - Aug 10, 2013 at 8:48 AM

      About 30,000 people watching gives Buffalo something like a 8 rating LOL. More people actually watch Wings games around the Detroit area and more people play hockey around the Detroit area and the state of Michigan then Buffalo or New York. How many NCAA division one teams does New York have? One I believe compared to 7 in Michigan The name Hockeytown extends beyond the Red Wings it also includes all the kids, college players and adults that play the sport of hockey.

      • bullwinkle88 - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:57 AM

        Like I already said, it’s not a matter of numbers, but percentages. We have more kids in local hockey leagues than baseball, basketball & football combined.

        Buffalo is Nr. 1 in America!

  11. blomfeld - Aug 10, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    L.A. IS ‘NOT’ A HOCKEY TOWN AND IT WILL NEVER BE ONE …

    YET L.A. IS THE ONE ‘SUNBELT’ EXPERIMENT WHICH ACTUALLY WORKED ! :) :) :)

    and here’s me, some guy in Vancouver who’s been rooting for this team since 1973 … weird huh ? … all I know is that we Kings won the last ‘untainted & scandal free’ Stanley Cup back in 2012 and now were poised to do that all over yet again in 2014 ! :) :) :)

    GO KINGS GO !!! … TODAY, TOMORROW AND FOREVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. jimw81 - Aug 10, 2013 at 12:42 AM

    it’s a basketball town,not a hockey town.

  13. alswingman - Aug 10, 2013 at 4:20 AM

    Darn, I was hoping Blomfeld would be banned by now. A tween girl posting irrelevant music videos in a hockey forum = mentally ill SFB.

    The problem with hockey in LA has never been fickle fans. The Kings have just never been a good franchise so what reason would there be to support a franchise that could never pull it together. In fact, they would still be crap if Dean Lombardi did not fire Terry Murray and somehow hit the nail on the head with Darryl Sutter. He was exactly what that team needed and they looked like world beaters in the 2012 playoffs. Contrary to popular belief, Johhny B. Quick was not the reason they won the cup. It was incredible forechecking and persistence on net. They were running rings around everyone. What did they lose 3 games the entire playoffs? No more than 4. They peaked at the right time.

    With the exception of mentally ill tween girl Bomfeld and his lametard videos, I am happy for LA fans.

    You can’t win with one superstar and a handful of very good players. That is why the Gretzky era did not pan out and before him, Marcel Dionne, Tiger Williams, whoever. You need a team that plays well together and they did that in 2012 so hockey town or not, they got the monkey off their backs.

  14. joey4id - Aug 10, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    I’ve lived in LA, Irvine (30 minutes south of Anaheim) and Montreal, and it goes without saying that Montreal is more of a hockey town. And I have to say that LA is NOT a hockey town. However, the population from Bakersfield (1 hour north of LA) to San Diego is nearly equivalent to that of Canada. So, there are a lot fans outside of LA that attend Kings’ games. Fact: There is more summer hockey being played in So Cal than there is in Montreal. There are many knowledgeable fans in Anaheim, LA, San Jose, and Phoenix, and there are many that just enjoy the game. Nonetheless, they are all passionate and make for a good atmosphere.

  15. blackhawks2010 - Aug 10, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    It’s cheaper for Hawks fans to go to games at the Forum than the UC. I’ve done it the last four years, plenty of cheap seats….

  16. nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 10, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    The Kings have a core of loyal fans, as do the Dodgers and Lakers. To me, the difference between that and a “hockey town” (of sub in any other sport) is this: In a hockey town, when ANY of the guys on the team go to the grocery or an eatery or to the park, folks recognize him and will acknowledge him with a nod or wave but will give him his space.

    • ron05342 - Aug 11, 2013 at 6:02 PM

      Not sure what you mean, or if its even relevant, but living in L.A. I see celebrities all the time. It’s a normal course of a day. They are out there doing things we all do, driving, going to restaurants, walking the dog, etc.

      So of course we give them their space. Sure you see tourists approach celebrities but they are from out-of-town.

  17. paledevil - Aug 10, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    Well heck if Mr Brough decides to write “On Hockey” a comprehensive definitive journal of every aspect of the game since it began I would pay 99.99 for it …bout 3 years 1500 man hours would do the trick

    • blomfeld - Aug 11, 2013 at 2:01 PM

      As the saying goes, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become ‘truly’ good at anything … and I know this first hand because I have done this with the game of golf … which is why today I can legitimately call myself a ‘quality’ ball striker ! :)

  18. surfoside4life - Aug 12, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    “And to that we say…who cares?”….. exactly what i was thinking. Here’s to bringing the cup back to LA in 2014. GKG!!

Featured video

Eakins on his way out of Edmonton?

Sign up for Fantasy hockey

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. S. Crosby (2629)
  2. V. Hedman (2555)
  3. P. Datsyuk (2426)
  4. D. Krejci (2083)
  5. P. Sharp (2052)
  1. B. Elliott (1843)
  2. Z. Chara (1746)
  3. S. Varlamov (1693)
  4. B. Marchand (1656)
  5. B. Dubinsky (1600)