By measure of Stanley Cups won, the Kings have been the most successful of the four NHL franchises that have called California home. Despite finding the Kings, Ducks, and Sharks at the bottom of the Western Conference standings when the NHL suspended play, the Golden State has taken home three championships over the past 13 seasons. In 2007 Anaheim captured California’s first Stanley Cup. The Kings hoisted the chalice in both 2012 and 2014.
Most Kings fans know the team entered the NHL as part of the 1967 expansion. However, many are unaware that a second Golden State squad, the California Seals, was among the five other expansion teams that entered the league that year. The Seals, who were renamed the Oakland Seals partway through that first season and then renamed again to the California Golden Seals in 1970, played nine seasons in the Bay Area before moving to Cleveland in 1976 to become the Barons. After two years in Ohio, the team merged with the Minnesota North Stars with the combined team playing in the Twin Cities until 1993, when it moved to Dallas.
The Kings and Seals split a ten-game slate that inaugural season. However, LA won seven of the eight remaining season series’ against their Northern California rivals before the Seals took off for the Midwest. The Kings all-time regular-season record against the Seals was 33-18-8 for a points percentage of .627, which is the Kings best all-time point percentage against any team other than the third-year Vegas Golden Knights, against whom the Kings have a surprising .654 points percentage. During their nine years “up North” the Seals never had a winning season and never won a playoff series.
After a 15-year absence, the NHL returned to the Bay Area when the expansion San Jose Sharks debuted in 1991-92. Unlike the Seals, who always had problems at the gate, the Sharks were a box office success right from the start, selling out every home game the two years they played at the Cow Palace before the then-San Jose Arena was completed. A nineties marketing phenomenon due to their compelling logo and trendy black and teal color scheme (teal was very hip in the nineties) the early Sharks were much better at selling “merch” than winning games. The team went 17-58-5 that first season. Their second season was even worse, “highlighted” by a 17-game losing streak, and a still-current league record of 71 losses.
Overall, the Kings and Sharks have played 157 regular season games. The rivalry’s closeness is shown by the Kings’ 68-68-7-14 all-time series record, for an overall points percentage of .500. However, due to the “loser’s point” awarded in games decided in overtime or by shootout the series is not evenly split. The Sharks all-time record against the Kings is 82-57-7-11 for a points percentage of .570.
Over the 28 seasons the teams have faced off (excluding this year and the lockout-lost 2004-05 season) San Jose leads the all-time yearly season series 15-9-4, with the Sharks prevailing each of the past four seasons. This season, the Kings were 1-1-0-1 (3 points) against the Sharks before the league suspended play. However, due to the “loser’s point”, the Stars were ahead in the season series with a record of 2-0-0-1 (5 points.) Thus the Kings could have tied the season series with a regulation victory had the teams’ March 31st date at Staples Center not been postponed.
The “Mighty Ducks of Anaheim” (NOT the “Anaheim Mighty Ducks”) were originally owned by the Walt Disney Corp. The club entered the NHL in 1993 after the Mouse paid the league a $25 million dollar expansion fee plus an additional $25 million territorial rights fee to then-Kings owner Bruce McNall. The team was named after the 1992 film The Mighty Ducks, about a fictional Minnesota youth hockey team coached by Emilio Estevez. Marketing family-friendly “sports entertainment” the Mighty Ducks team drew well from the start selling out 27 of 41 home games that first season, and leading the NHL in merchandise sales.
Anaheim struggled on the ice its first few seasons before future Hall of Famers Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne teamed up to lead the team to its first playoff appearance in 1997. In 2003, the stellar goaltending of J.S. Giguere propelled the club to the Stanley Cup Finals, which it lost to the Devils in seven games. In 2005, Disney sold the franchise to Orange County tech billionaires Henry and Susan Samueli, who rebranded the team the Anaheim Ducks prior to the 2006-07 season. That season, the Ducks became the first California team to win the Stanley Cup, defeating Ottawa in five games.
As a result of a 2007 online poll which attracted 12,000 votes, the Kings-Ducks rivalry is officially coined the “Freeway Face-off”. The Kings all-time record against the Ducks is 64-54-11-15 (.535.) However, due to the “loser’s point,” Anaheim has a superior point percentage of .573 (69-48-11-16.) The Ducks had taken two of three games from the Kings this season, all in regulation. Thus LA could have tied the season series with a regulation win had the teams’ April 3rd matchup at Honda Center not been postponed. Finally, over the 25 other seasons the teams have faced off (excluding the 2004-05 lockout-canceled season) the Ducks lead the annual season series contest, 13-10-2.
Typically this is the point in my posts where I wax poetic about the Kings’ future good or bad and invite readers to comment below or @MarkDevoreNHL. But quite frankly, I have no idea what the future will bring, whether it be related to hockey or other more important concerns. Thus instead of parting with the traditional “GO KINGS GO!, I’ll just join with Sergeant Phil Esterhaus to wish you all good health and to “Let’s be careful out there!”