A year ago at this time, ticket brokers across North America were salivating at a dream Stanley Cup Finals matchup between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks, a pair of teams in hockey-mad cities each trying to break extended championship droughts.
This year’s Finals between the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings is not quite a nightmarish pairing, but it’s not stoking the same passions as last year as the two teams prepare for Game One of the best-of-seven series tonight, May 30, at the Prudential Center in New Jersey.
Jake Conaway, the general manager of the Philadelphia-based Wanamaker Ticket Service, told TicketNews that interest in the series has been tepid thus far, especially for the first two games in New Jersey.
“You can get any ticket to the Stanley Cup [in New Jersey] for under $200, and I’ve never seen Stanley Cup tickets that inexpensive,” Conaway said. “I always compare it to the Flyers-Chicago Blackhawks [Finals in 2010]. Those tickets were $600, $700 to get in. To see this series, being $170 to get in the door, it’s shocking to me. So certainly a hockey fan in New Jersey has a real good chance of getting in to see the game at a reasonable price.”
Nationwide interest in the series may be lacking because both the Devils and Kings are secondary teams in their own markets. In terms of local fandom, the Devils are not only behind the New York Rangers — whom the Devils beat in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals — among New York-area NHL teams but also both baseball and football teams and the NBA’s New York Knicks.
There’s also no sense of urgency to see the Devils, who have won the Stanley Cup three times and lost in the Finals once since 1995. “It’s kind of like that in Detroit,” Conaway said of the Red Wings, the only team to win more Cups than the Devils since 1995. “Detroit has notoriously been a very, very good hockey team over the years and after a while people are just like ‘Whatever, been there done that, seen that five or six times.’ They’re not really interested in spending four or five hundred dollars to get to see the Stanley Cup.”
Hockey, meanwhile, is clearly the third-most popular sport in Los Angeles behind the NBA and Major League Baseball. But the Kings, who entered the playoffs as the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference, are benefiting from a rare Cinderella run to the Finals in which they are the only Los Angeles-area team competing in the playoffs.
The NBA’s Lakers and Clippers were each knocked out of the playoffs in the second round, which has allowed everyone to focus on the Kings and their stunning success. Fueled by red-hot goaltender Jonathan Quick, the Kings went a remarkable 12-2 against the Western Conference’s three division winners to reach the Stanley Cup for just the second time in franchise history. The Wayne Gretzky-led 1993 team lost to the Montreal Canadiens in five games.
Conaway said ticket prices for Games Three and Four in Los Angeles, scheduled for Monday, June 4 and Wednesday, June 6, are far higher as fans board the hockey bandwagon.
“In L.A., tickets to get in the door [are] around $400 — L.A.’s tickets are literally almost triple the price to get in than it is in New Jersey,” Conaway said. “They’re excited about it. Their team blew through the playoffs, totally dominated.”
Demand and pricing should increase if the series shifts back to New Jersey for a Game Five and a winner-take-all Game Seven. Conaway said prices for a potential Game Five Saturday, June 9 are about $300 right now and that a Game Seven on Wednesday, June 13 “…would be a beast.”
If the Cup goes the distance for a second straight year, ticket brokers might not spend the summer wondering what could have been if the Rangers had beaten the Devils and created a true New York-Los Angeles championship matchup.
“It’s not the matchup that people were anticipating,” Conaway said. “That Los Angeles-Rangers matchup would have been incredibly popular.”