Editor’s Note: The following op-ed piece was originally published on June 30, 2006, the last time the Los Angeles Kings announced that they were raising ticket prices. It is being published once again strictly for background purposes since the Kings are once again raising ticket prices under similar (not the same) circumstances. It is not being re-published to express an opinion on the current price increase.
The Los Angeles Kings and the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), headed by Philip Anschutz and Tim Leiweke, the entertainment and real estate conglomerate that owns the Kings, sure have a lot of nerve.
On Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Kings will be raising season ticket prices by an average of 7.5%.
Prices for individual game tickets will be announced later this summer, but it is a foregone conclusion that those prices will rise as well.
This is yet another mistake by a franchise known for making more than its share of bad decisions over its nearly forty-year history.
One example is their trading away one first-round draft pick after another (a practice that for all intents and purposes did not change significantly until 2000), only to see the other team use the pick to select players who would become, at the very least, solid National Hockey League players.
The most notable could-have-been-Kings are likely Hall-Of-Fame defenseman Phil Housley and goalie Tom Barrasso.
And then there was superstar defenseman Raymond Bourque, who went to Boston with the eighth pick in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft—one that belonged to the Kings—after the Kings traded that pick to the Bruins for goalie Ron Grahame.
Speaking of bad decisions, in the 1984 draft, the Kings wasted a fourth-round pick (69th overall) on Major League pitching great Tom Glavine, who had stated that he was a virtual lock to choose baseball over hockey.
Even more laughable, the Kings selected him ahead of future Hall-Of-Fame left wing Luc Robitaille, who was a ninth round pick (171st overall).
Without a doubt, the Kings have made quite a few monumental blunders over the years that have hurt them dearly. So much so that they would likely have had much greater success—maybe even winning the Stanley Cup.
To be fair, the Kings have made numerous solid player personnel decisions over the years, and they have made good decisions off the ice as well. One of those decisions came last season when the NHL returned after the lockout.
As a way of thanking fans for sticking with them and enticing those disgruntled with the NHL and its labor strife, the Kings lowered ticket prices across the board for season seat holders and froze prices on individual game tickets.
This was one of the Kings’ big announcements at an obviously made-for-television “press conference” that was aimed far more at their fans than the media.
“We have the most passionate and loyal fans in the National Hockey League and our goal is to continue to provide them with affordable ticket prices,” said then-Kings Chief Executive Officer Tim Leiweke.
“We intend to be in the bottom third in ticket prices going forward,” said Leiweke.
And when the NHL finally returned to the ice, the Kings, like most teams in the league, enjoyed increased attendance figures.
Lowering ticket prices for last season clearly was the right move. But now the Kings have gone back into blunder mode.
Although it is not on the same level as their biggest blunders, raising ticket prices for the 2006-07 season is another mistake.
Indeed, raising ticket prices is the wrong move after a season where the team self-destructed on the ice and off and wound up out of playoff contention for the third consecutive season, once again disappointing their long-suffering fans who had been promised much more by Leiweke prior to the start of the 2005-06 season.
And in light of what appears to be rather a dismal outlook for the immediate future, this decision could not be more ill-conceived.
To be sure, the Kings are in a major rebuilding mode, as their trade of forward Pavol Demitra, their leading scorer and best player, to the Minnesota Wild indicates. The Kings are cutting salary and it looks like they will be relying mostly on young, inexperienced players with a few veterans and possibly some cheaper unrestricted free agents who they can sign beginning today (July 1, 2006).
That formula certainly does not add up to a playoff team, let alone a Stanley Cup contender in 2006-07. Rather, it adds up to what will likely be another long, disheartening season for Kings’ fans.
Although the Kings do need to build from the ground up as they are doing in order to build a Cup contender for the long-term, it is fairly obvious that the 2006-07 season is likely to be a struggle, at the very least. The product on the ice will be lacking in terms of skill and talent, and will probably be tough to watch at times.
Fans are being asked to pay MORE to watch that?
And regarding the message this sends to the Kings’ loyal fans, the question is: Do the Kings and AEG really care?
After all, given the fact that they set new attendance records last season, the Kings and AEG know they can make this move because the fans will continue to fill the seats at Staples Center anyway.
Although the Kings under President and General Manager Dean Lombardi are likely making the right moves in terms of rebuilding the on-ice talent, they are clearly making the wrong move in asking Kings’ fans to pay more for what is likely to be a lot less.
That being the case, unless the Kings make moves to dramatically improve the team this off-season, they certainly do have a lot of nerve.
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