Let’s pretend (or be realistic, depending on how you view the situation) that the NHL and NHLPA can’t figure out how to play nice (again!) and decide they want to blow up the 2012-2013 season. Among the many negative aspects of such a development would be the fact that the Los Angeles Kings would have to wait an entire year to come out and defend their first-ever Stanley Cup. As a recent piece here on Rant suggested, this result, when combined with the Stanley Cup hangover that often seems to ail Cup winners during their following season, could lead to problems for the Kings on the ice. But how would the loss of an entire season impact their attendance?
Chances are good that the Kings would be in great shape despite the loss of a season. Their average attendance per game dropped by only 50 to 17,839 in the 2005-2006 season, and they were already at 98% capacity then. Their lowest average was 16,488 fans per game during the 2008-2009 season—the last of three straight seasons where the Kings finished in either 14th or 15th place in the Western Conference—and even that still translated into 90% capacity, which is nothing to be worried about (unless you are one of those Canadians who thinks any team south of New York with less than full capacity needs to be relocated to Medicine Hat yesterday).
And consider this: Despite the 2004-2005 season being lost, the Tampa Bay Lightning came back to post record-high attendance figures, averaging 20,509 fans per game, which was roughly a 16% increase from their Cup-winning season. Tampa Bay. One of those Southern markets where hockey is supposed to have no foothold whatsoever. After an entire year without hockey. Imagine how things will go in a metropolis like Los Angeles where professional hockey has now existed for 45 years?
The lockout won’t damper the enthusiasm of Kings fans, especially since most of the core of the team that helped them win the Cup last year will be returning. If anything, the excitement should increase and the Staples Center should be at full capacity every night for the first time in the team’s history.