Twenty-three years after Wayne Gretzky arrived in Los Angeles and 19 years after the NHL began expanding to California, the Golden State might finally end up taking center stage during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The postseason will feature both Los Angeles-area teams for the first time ever after the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks each advanced to the playoffs during the final weekend of the season. In addition, the Western Conference semifinals will feature at least one California team because the seventh-seeded Kings are taking on their Pacific Division rivals, the second-seeded San Jose Sharks, in the quarterfinals beginning Thursday, April 14. It marks only the second time two California-based teams have faced each other in the NHL playoffs. The Ducks upset the top-seeded Sharks two years ago.
The Ducks, seeded fourth this year, will also open the playoffs Thursday by battling the fifth-seeded Nashville Predators.
The Kings and Sharks enjoyed impressive years at the gate, but with more than 48 hours to go until faceoff in San Jose, it appears to be a buyer’s market for tickets at StubHub.com. As of this morning, April 12, there are 988 tickets available for Game One at StubHub.com, but 450 for less than the $129 face value of the cheapest seat at HP Pavilion at San Jose.
The resale market for the series seems more competitive in Los Angeles. The two teams will shift to Staples Center for Game Three Tuesday, April 19, and as of this morning at StubHub.com, there were 1,667 tickets available, only 64 of which were below the $52 face value of the cheapest ticket at Staples.
The dearth of inexpensive tickets for the Staples Center games is no surprise considering the Kings are coming off their most successful season at the gate since moving into Staples Center in 1999. The Kings, who are the elder statesmen of California hockey teams and have been in the NHL since the league’s first expansion in 1967, averaged 18,066 fans per night this year, 99.7 percent of capacity at 18,118-seat Staples. They played to 18 straight sellouts to end the season and performed in front of 35 sellouts overall out of 41 home games.
The sellout streak is the Kings’ longest since 1993-94, the season after the franchise’s only appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, and the 35 sellouts the most for the Kings since 1991-92. Those teams, of course, featured Gretzky, who was traded to the Kings by the Edmonton Oilers in the biggest deal in hockey history prior to the 1988-89 season.
The Sharks have been a steady success story in San Jose, where they have never played to below 90 percent capacity since joining the league in 1991. The Sharks fell just shy of averaging a sellout last season, when they averaged 17,558 fans at the 17,562-seat HP Pavilion. They played to 98.9 percent of capacity this season (17,366), which marked the first time in six seasons that figure fell below 99 percent.
The Ducks, meanwhile, are the only California franchise to ever hoist the Stanley Cup, but attendance at the Honda Center has fluctuated. The Ducks played to more than 100 percent capacity at the 17,174-seat Honda Center in 2007-08, the season after their Cup title, but have seen a decrease in each of the last three seasons, including this year when the Ducks averaged 14,738 (85.8 percent of capacity) per night.
The Ducks began play in 1993-94 — less than a year after Disney’s “The Mighty Ducks” movie became a surprise hit — and played to at least 98 percent capacity in their first five years. They drew 90 percent or less, though, in six seasons from 1999-2000 to 2005-06 and bottomed out at 67.8 percent capacity in 2001-02, the season before the Ducks’ first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
As of this morning, StubHub.com had 856 tickets to the Ducks’ opener against Nashville, none priced below the rock bottom $20.25 ticket offered by the Ducks.