Today, no two teams in the NHL share the spotlight as the league’s elite quite like the L.A. Kings and Chicago Blackhawks. They have four Stanley Cups between them in five seasons and have twice battled one another for a chance at the Cup in two Western Conference Finals series considered as intense as any Stanley Cup Final game. Both enjoy wide-spread popularity across the United States, which asks the question: between these two NHL juggernauts, which team can claim to be “America’s Team”?
The Best in the U.S.
Had the question been raised a few years ago, the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins may have been fighting for the honor of America’s Team. However, with the Red Wings slow decline and the Bruins recently identified as the most hated NHL team in the world, coupled with the rise of the Kings and the Blackhawks, there are now new teams capturing the attention of U.S. hockey fans.
Both the Kings and the Blackhawks are among the most popular teams in the entire NHL and it shows in the stands. The Blackhawks have the highest attendance of any team in the League at an average of 22,623 people per game, with standing room only ticket bringing the United Center to 117.6% capacity. It is thanks to their drawing power that the Blackhawks are chosen so often for the NHL’s marque events, such as two Winter Classics and the Stadium Series.
The fans of the L.A. Kings, while wrongly criticized for a lack of support in a non-traditional market, actually draw over-capacity too, at 107.6%. While they didn’t break any records at the Stanley Cup parade, the Kings are the eighth best in the NHL in terms of attendance and fourth out of all U.S.-based teams. With the Stadium Series enabling smaller markets and more unusual locales to host outdoor hockey games, the L.A. Kings gained a lot of attention of their Hollywood style game versus the Ducks. That success resulted in the Kings securing another Stadium Series game in 2015.
The same fan support in the stands makes their presence felt on social media as well. According to CapGeek’s Twitter Rankings, the Blackhawks (first at 624,761) and the Kings (eighth at 451,006) are among the most followed teams in the NHL.
The Blackhawks also dominate in other social media outlets. As this fan engagement study shows, the Blackhawks are third overall and second of U.S.-based teams in terms of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, attendance and average ticket prices. The Kings, meanwhile are tenth overall and seventh out of U.S. teams.
In the Media
There is no question that the L.A. Kings benefit from being the hockey team in Tinsel Town. With many talk shows filmed in the L.A. area, Kings players are often asked to appear on various media outlets outside of Stanley Cup appearances. With Jonathan Quick surprising a young fan or Anze Kopitar showing his support of breast cancer awareness both on The Ellen DeGeneres Show , these Kings players bring exposure to the sport of hockey and specifically the Kings team.
It is not just current Kings players representing the team. During the 23rd season of the CBS reality TV show, The Amazing Race, two members of the L.A. Kings Ice Crew participated in the race, promoting the team by wearing the Kings’ logo and talking about the 2012 Stanley Cup win. L.A. Kings legend Luc Robitaille appeared as himself on the Disney Channel cartoon Phineas and Ferb. In the video game Grand Theft Auto V, the fictional Los Santos Kings appear.
On the flip side, big name stars are often seen at Kings games. Not only are celebrities spotted in the stands, Will Ferrell and South Park’s Cartman pump up the crowd during games.
The Blackhawks have made their own pop culture appearance as well, with defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook appearing in the NBC TV show “Chicago Fire”.
— NHL (@NHL) February 24, 2014
Use in Commercials
While star players on the Blackhawks and Kings are understandably used to sell the NHL itself, to see these two teams featured in non-hockey-related TV spots shows their appeal to a broader audience.
The Kings rivalry with the San Jose Sharks is also the focus for a recent GEICO TV spot. Apple used the L.A. Kings for their iPad “What Will Your Verse Be?” commercial, showing several shots of Kings players at practice.
Patrick Kane, as a top American hockey player suiting up for a successful big-market team, has been featured most often for non-hockey specific commercials. He has represented the sport of hockey in “all sports” type of commercials for both SportsCenter and Gatorade.
Despite the Kings’ heavier usage in TV spots and talk shows, the numbers in terms of game attendance and fans (via social media) prove that the Blackhawks have a wider and greater appeal and therefore should be considered “America’s Team”.
Michelle Timian fell in love with hockey after watching a game between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs in 2006 and has been following hockey ever since. She is a graduate of Western Illinois University with a degree in Creative Writing and is more comfortable in front of a keyboard than on skates. She also blogs for the New York Rangers at blueshirtsunited.com.