There was a time when hockey in Los Angeles has been just an ambitious idea for the NHL. Today, one of the most famous cities in the world has an established hockey club with two Stanley Cups (2012, 2014) and a fan base that regularly visits the home games of the Kings. At the end of January, Rezztek® attended an NHL game between the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks in the Crypto.com Arena. Read on and find out why ice hockey in the Sunshine State is a brilliant idea.
The beginnings & Wayne Gretzky
It’s not a secret that California is the state where winter sports don’t have their natural habitat. Local people love surfing, basketball, baseball, American football, and many beach sports, including volleyball. The NHL knew that California was an area with a lot of potential, so the league decided in 1967 to expand their product to a location where many people didn’t exactly know what hockey was.
The beginnings were all but easy; the team was weak, and the stadium was half-empty. Everyone knew that this project needed a miracle or a serious amount of time. Well, the LA Kings got, somehow, both. At the end of the 1980s, the blockbuster trade happened: the mighty Wayne Gretzky came from the Edmonton Oilers to California beaches.
He contributed greatly to the progress of hockey in this area, and the hockey market in Los Angeles started to grow (and glow!). The results were slightly better, but the interest in the game went up enormously.
The Hockey Hollywood
The Golden Era of the LA Kings is dated between 2012 and 2014, when the team won the Stanley Cup twice and the local people got their own hockey heroes. Dustin Brown, the first hockey player from the Kings to lift the Stanley Cup and the captain of the team at that time, has a statue in front of the Staples Center. Anže Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, and Drew Doughty became legends too, and their impact on ‘Hockey Hollywood’ is literally impossible to measure.
Funny thing, veterans Kopitar and Doughty play for the Kings to this day, and we saw with our own eyes how fans react to them. It was a pure passion. The Kings established themselves as a reasonable force in the NHL and gained the respect between rivals that they lacked during their problematic first years.
Present & Future
The Kings lost their game to the Sharks in the shootouts, but the more important fact was that the crowd was entertained from the first second to the very end. Hockey should be fun, and in Los Angeles, hockey is fun. Pre-game show, competitions for the fans, mascot Bailey (the lion), and the professional organist who contributed to the atmosphere in the arena are all aspects which are fundamental for the success of the NHL. Not only in Los Angeles, but in the every city where hockey is played.
Yes, it’s not Las Vegas, New York, Montreal, or Toronto. But in a city where you can walk on the streets shirtless for the majority of the year, that’s more than enough. It’s good to mention that California is a very attractive location for the players—not just the LA, but Anaheim or San Jose too. The reason is simple, life there is different, a little bit slower and more chilled. It was a risk for the NHL to bring this sport here. But some things are just worth a risk.
Featured Image Credits: Jakub Vaverka