Fifty years ago today, the long and storied (though not always successful) history of the Los Angeles Kings began. On February 9, 1966, the NHL Board of Governors unanimously awarded Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke a hockey franchise!
50 YRS AGO TODAY: Expansion era began when Owners-Governors awarded 6 conditional franchises. From meeting minutes: pic.twitter.com/p5gPSdQ4sY— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 9, 2016
Cooke decided (to the disbelief of at least one local official) to reject the LA Sports Arena and build an entirely new arena for his Lakers and his Kings, whose name was handpicked by Cooke from fan submissions to give the team "an air of royalty." The Kings didn't always perform like royalty in the "Fabulous" Great Western Forum, but over the 50 years, they built a legacy in an area where very few thought hockey would thrive. Here's more on Cooke, and on a guy who's been here almost 50 years himself. (Keep getting better, Bob!)
Tonight, the Kings will wear gold to commemorate their 50th birthday. In true JftC fashion, here are some graphs to show how those 50 years have gone!
Los Angeles Kings' Final Standings Finish, By Season
The below graph shows the Kings' final finish in each of their first 48 seasons (and their projected finish in Season 49), sorted by how far they advanced and what their point total was within the conference. For example, in 2000-01 the Kings were seventh in the conference, but due to their first round upset of the Red Wings, they were the fourth-most successful team in the West. If they scratch the top line, it means they won the conference AND took home the Cup; that bottom line shows dead last in the West, a mark they hit twice. The dotted line shows the playoff cutoff.
The Kings have only really had two periods of sustained success. A seven-year playoff streak from 1987-1993 coincided with the arrival of the Great One and a boom in popularity (more on that below), culminating in the franchise's first Stanley Cup Final appearance. The second period is the one we're living in, which hopefully goes on forever and ever.
Kings' Average Home Attendance, By Season
The Kings are currently riding a 187-game sellout streak, but it's been a gradual process for the Kings to reach this level of widespread popularity. Here's their average home attendance by season (via Hockey DB):
Having a good team helps, of course; that uptick during the Gretzky years was in a stadium that only held 16,005 to begin with, and since 2012 the Kings have been regularly exceeding the 18,118 capacity. But with the exception of a truly dreadful 2007-08, the Kings have comfortably averaged more than 16,005 fans per game in every season since the new millennium. Chalk it up to a new stadium, a rebrand, and a plan... and the passion for the sport in LA staying strong.
Next season, of course is the actual 50th, and the Kings are going big. The new 50th anniversary commemorative logo is being revealed today; here's a potential mockup from Mayor's Manor, but the gist is that it will integrate gold into the current LA home plate logo. McDonald's will love that! In addition, Staples Center will be hosting the NHL All-Star Game, which allows all of us to once again rub our locale in everyone's faces. (By the way, it's 83 degrees right now.) Surely, there will be more to come, and hopefully the Kings make the anniversary season even more memorable by winning some hardware.