The shortened 2019-20 season and the unique format of the playoffs due to COVID-19 showed financial issues for all of the NHL’s 31 teams. Forbes recently ranked the Los Angeles Kings as the sixth most valuable NHL team, as one of only two teams that ranked within the Original Six. Even outside of COVID-19 related issues, though, the team saw a decline in game attendance and revenue last season. As of December 2020, Forbes valued the Kings at $825 million, only down $25 million from 2019. Revenue, on the other hand, showed a $32 million decrease.
The Kings had consistently ranked between 13th and 16th in the league when it came to average attendance per game, with the exception of a standout 2013-14 season, ranking eighth in the league. The team’s decline in revenue matches their decline in ticket sales, dropping to 21st in the league last season in terms of average attendance, 16,916 per game.
While financial issues will continue to be a problem, as there will be no fans in the building to start the season, a shortened one at that, the 2020-21 season could serve as a positive catalyst for the team’s financial situation once things hopefully return to normal in 2021-22.
The 2020-21 Season Will Show Significantly More Rivalry Games
The Kings have always had, and always will have, rivalries with their intrastate opponents, the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks. Despite this, recent rivalry games between the Kings, Ducks, and Sharks have not been as emotionally driven as NHL rivalry games typically are.
But this could change in 2020-21 due to the unique format of the season. The Kings will play the Ducks and the Sharks eight times each throughout the season, hopefully reigniting a flame between the teams.
After meeting one another so many times, it would seem difficult for each team to come out of the season not hating one another. This should also raise fan engagement. The NHL saw this last season with the Battle of Alberta. After the first spirited matchup between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, ticket prices skyrocketed. If the Kings can achieve something similar with their California rivals, it could have a lasting effect through the 2021-22 season, once fans are able to return to the Staples Center.
If LA can stir the pot with a divisional rival, TV viewership should go up, as exciting hockey will be regularly available for many to watch. If fans return to arenas for the 2021-22 season, ticket sales could go up for rivalry games, as they would want to see the same passionate games in person that they saw on TV just a season ago.
Kings Should Be Significantly Better Once Fans Can Return
The Kings have likely gone through the worst of their rebuild, and they should only be getting better over the next couple of seasons. The team has a wave of youthful players entering the league that will make up the next era of Kings hockey.
Los Angeles’s prospects include Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, Gabriel Vilardi, Arthur Kaliyev, Samuel Fagemo, Tobias Bjornfot, and Kale Clague, just to name a few. LA has consistently ranked among the best in the league when it comes to their prospect system. And their league-leading nine prospects at the 2020 World Junior Championship reflects this.
Calvin Petersen is also looked to as the team’s next starting goalie, as Jonathan Quick’s career is coming to a close. Petersen has put up some impressive numbers in the few games he has played, and Kings fans are eager to see how he will fare in the coming season with a bigger role. On top of this, Anze Kopitar looks to still have a few good seasons left in him as he approaches 1,000 NHL points.
LA is looking to improve in 2020-21, but the 2021-22 season is likely the first season where the Kings could really compete. The way the team’s rebuild lines up with the NHL hoping to return to normal in 2021-22 could do wonders for LA’s attendance and financial situation.
The 2020-21 season will provide a sneak peek for fans of what is to come for the Kings. Fans will only be able to watch the team turn things around from afar, but once we reach the 2021-22 season, they will flood back to the Staples Center to watch a much better team than the one they saw in March of 2020.
Kings’ Renewed Rivals Should Also Be Better in the 2021-22 Season
The lack of emotion between the Kings, Ducks, and Sharks last season is because they were the three worst teams in the Western Conference. While the Sharks seem to be a bit lost in their direction, finding themselves somewhere between a rebuild and going on a run for the Stanley Cup, the Ducks are rebuilding at a similar pace to the Kings.
While Anaheim’s prospect pool doesn’t look quite as good as LA’s, they do have a number of standout prospects in Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale. If the Kings recommence their rivalries with the Ducks and Sharks, and all three teams return better in the 2021-22 season, attendance and revenue from these games, in particular, could impress.
The Entire NHL Could See Big Numbers in the 2021-22 Season
As long as it is safe to do so, every NHL team could see a jump in attendance when it comes to the 2021-22 season. Considering the number of intense rivalries we will see in the coming season and the inability for fans to see their teams in person, then attendance in the 2021-22 season could increase to unexpected heights. Although it may be hard financially for the NHL to have a shortened season with no fans in attendance, it may prove that taking a step back allows the NHL to go two steps forward when it comes to popularity.