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Whether They Win or Lose, Kings Have Sold Out Season : Hockey: Despite their shaky start, they have had takers for all 16,005 seats for 40 regular-season games this season.

March 03, 1992|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

No other professional L.A. team has ever done it.

Not the Dodgers in the days of Koufax and Drysdale.

Not the Lakers in the heyday of Showtime.

Certainly not the Rams or the Raiders in the cavernous Coliseum.

No Los Angeles pro sports team has ever sold every seat for every game for the entire season.

Until now.

The Kings have sold all 16,005 seats for all 40 regular-season games this season. They are rivaled only by the UCLA basketball teams of the John Wooden era, when Pauley Pavilion sold out every game from 1967 to 1975. But that meant only 12,500 tickets, and a large student population to ensure that any empty seats, relatively inexpensive, would be filled.

The Kings have done it with seats ranging from $250 per ticket at rinkside to $65, $55 and all the way down to $10.

By the time the regular season ends, the club will have sold out 65 consecutive regular-season games. The Kings' last non-sellout was Dec. 5, 1990, against the Winnipeg Jets.

"The thing we've created is a feeling that going to a Kings game is the thing to do," team owner Bruce McNall said. ". . . We came off a great season where the expectations were very high.

"What's even more amazing is that we've done this even though we've not been playing well."

A year ago, the Kings won their first Smythe Division title. But until the last few weeks, they were a mediocre team at best.

Last season ended in frustration when the Kings failed to advance beyond the second round in the playoffs. And the frustration mounted at the start of this season. But still, the fans came.

The Kings' highly regarded first line of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Tomas Sandstrom fizzled after opening night. Gretzky had his worst start, Kurri has struggled all season and Sandstrom has been in and out of the lineup because of injuries and a suspension.

Still, the fans came.

The Kings' record dropped to .500 and stayed there much of the season, he team falling into fifth place several times.

Still, the fans came.

It didn't matter if it was the expansion San Jose Sharks on a Wednesday night in October or the Quebec Nordiques on a Thursday night in February, 16,005 bought tickets.

McNall dreamed of sellout crowds when he paid $15 million to get Gretzky in hockey's biggest trade back in 1988.

"I didn't dream it was possible," McNall said. "This was not a realistic possibility."

The Kings, now in their 25th season, averaged 8,037 fans during their first season and fewer then 9,000 in each of their first five seasons.

Then-owner Jack Kent Cooke used to say that he knew there were a lot of transplanted Canadians in Southern California, but that he never realized they came here "to get away from hockey."

The Kings' attendance average finally went over 10,000 during the 1972-73 season, but peaked at 12,620 before the Gretzky era.

In fact, when Gretzky arrived, the Kings hadn't hit 12,000 in average attendance in four years.

Then it took off, a 14,875 average Gretzky's first season, 15,707 the next and 15,674 last season when the Kings had a record 34 regular-season sellouts.

The closest the Lakers ever came to a sellout season at the Forum was 1988-89, the year after they completed their back-to-back championship run, when they sold out 39 of 41 home dates.

The most sellouts the Dodgers ever had were 42 out of 81 home games in 1982, the year they drew a then-record 3,608,881 to Dodger Stadium.

The Rams in 1958 averaged 83,681 for six regular-season games at the Coliseum, which could hold more than 102,000 in those days. The best the Rams have done in Anaheim is an average of 62,550 in 69,050-seat Anaheim Stadium in 1980.

The most USC's football team ever averaged was 76,000 in 1988, with the Coliseum capacity at 92,516.

Who buys King tickets? A study of the approximately 13,000 Kings season ticket-holders by the Pepperdine University School of Business and Management in 1990 showed that:

Thirty-one percent have a college degree and another 31% have some postgraduate education.

Forty-three percent have an annual income of more than $75,000.

The leading occupations among season ticket-holders are business owner or manager.

Forty-one percent are between 25 and 34.

Eighty-six percent are male.

Seventy percent own a home.

The primary area of residence for the majority is the Westside of Los Angeles, with 18% coming from the San Fernando Valley and another 17% from Orange County.

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