Are you ready for outdoor hockey?
The Kings and Ducks are reportedly exploring the possibility of playing home games this season away at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson if socially distant fans are ultimately allowed to attend by Los Angeles County health officials.
In addition to the Kings and Ducks, several other teams are considering playing away, according to Canadian reports Thursday. The NHL still hasn’t set a date for the opening night of its coronavirus-delayed 2020-21 season, and its targeted Jan. 1 departure could come and go.
Staggering away games would be a long shot for every NHL team, but especially for the Kings and Ducks. County health officials must lift current bans on fans attending outdoor sporting events before the Kings and Ducks can play at the 27,000-seat Carson Stadium.
There would be no point in playing away unless the fans were in attendance and revenue was created through ticket sales, parking and concessions that might otherwise not be available to the Kings and Ducks. if the stands remained empty inside at Staples Center and Honda Center.
Representatives for the Kings and Ducks declined to comment, but are thought to fear being left out of revenue streams if fans continue to be banned from indoor arenas in Southern California, while restrictions could be eased elsewhere in North America.
The Rams and Chargers, LA’s two NFL teams, cannot accommodate fans away from SoFi Stadium in Inglewood and fans are also prohibited from the Coliseum and Rose Bowl for USC and UCLA football games. Additionally, the Dodgers and Angels played their home dates without fans last season.
The high cost of hosting multiple away games would also be a significant hurdle for the Kings and Ducks to overcome. A makeshift rink is expected to be built and maintained, similar to the one used in the Dodger Stadium outdoor game between the Kings and Ducks in 2014.
In addition, opposing teams should agree to play away.
Proposals to play away were discussed during a Board of Governors conference call last month, according to Canada’s TSN, which also reported that the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars , the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins have expressed interest in hosting outdoor games.
The Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals were among the teams that said to the “no thanks” league during the conference call, according to TSN.
Dignity Health Sports Park is home to Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, which is owned by Kings’ parent company AEG. The stadium also served as temporary host to the Chargers before they and the Rams moved into their new home, the $5 billion SoFi Stadium, this season.
By adding the Ducks into a joint venture, the Kings could reduce some of the game hosting costs in Carson. The Ducks were a natural opponent to face the Kings when the Kings hosted the first outdoor game to be played in California on January 25, 2014, in front of 54,099 fans at Dodger Stadium.
A year later, the Kings faced the San Jose Sharks at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. Last season, the Kings faced the Colorado Avalanche in their third game of the Stadium Series, this one at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
The most logical time for the Kings and Ducks to play away would be in February, March and/or April when restrictions on fans could be lifted and before the Galaxy begins its season. MLS has tentatively set March for the start of its next season, but it could be delayed until April or May.
Past outdoor games in the warmer climes of California have gone off without a hitch.