The two largest cities in the United States are set to meet on hockey’s biggest stage, as the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings will face off in the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday.
New York and L.A. have a long standing history of battling for championships. The Knicks won both of their NBA titles against the Lakers in 1970 and 1973. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the Yankees and Dodgers met three times in the World Series. The 2014 Stanley Cup is the first time in 33 years that teams from the two cities will play for a title in one of the four major sports.
The NHL has never seen a New York-Los Angeles playoff series, and it could end up meaning big things for the sport.
The ratings for the series could be some of the NHL’s best in recent memory. Not only do the Rangers and Kings play in the country’s biggest cities, but they have two of the league’s best fan bases. In the regular season, they both consistently played in front of sellout crowds.
While the Kings set a franchise record for consecutive home sellouts, the Rangers are the biggest road draw in the sport. Their games away from Madison Square Garden led the league with an average attendance of 19,572.
The NHL has been fortunate of late, having major cities like L.A., Chicago and Detroit featured in the finals. In 2006, the league saw Carolina and Edmonton battle for the Cup. The series lasted seven games, but it didn’t help bolster the ratings much. The deciding game drew the lowest TV rating of any Stanley Cup clincher in the past decade.
"You want the larger market teams to be in there," Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said at the time. "It's not New York and L.A."
Eight years later, the league does have New York and L.A., and the difference can be seen, even before the series has started.
Tickets for the Stanley Cup games are being sold for the highest prices in years. According to Forbes, the average ticket price is the most expensive since the 2009-2010 finals. Shortly after the Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night and advanced, the average ticket price on Tiq IQ was set at $1,933.
Fans looking to purchase tickets on the secondary ticket market will likely have to spend four figures, if they want to attend a game in New York. The cheapest seats at Tiq IQ for Game Three are going for $1,099.
The league is fortunate that both New York and Los Angeles have reached this point, considering having just one major city in the finals doesn’t always guarantee strong ratings. When the Kings won the Cup two years ago, their series with the New Jersey Devils did not draw significant interest. The six-game series averaged three million viewers, which marked the NHL’s lowest ratings since 2007.
NHL ratings have been on the rise in the last few years. Sunday’s Game Seven registered a 3.17 national rating, setting an NBC Sports Network record. The 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, which featured the Boston Bruins against the Blackhawks, set a new ratings mark for the NHL on NBC.