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August 21, 2010 5:13 pm

Kings retreat report

As I mentioned earlier, I got the chance on Thursday to attend a “retreat” for Kings staff at L.A. Live, an all-day event at the Grammy Museum that included approximately 60 staff members and featured 12 presentations from members of the organization. The event was hosted (for lack of a better term) by team president Luc Robitaille and Chris McGowan, chief marketing officer and senior vice president of business operations. Per prior, mutual agreement, some particulars of the day were off the record, but I thought folks might find it interesting to get an overview of some of the themes and thoughts that are predominant in the organization right now.

The theme that ran through most of the presentations was about “setting records.” Terry Murray and Ron Hextall spoke to the on-ice aspect on that, and Dustin Brown took hockey questions as well, while other department heads talked about their goals in total revenue, ticket sales, sponsorships, group sales, suite sales and charity (primarily the Kings Care Foundation). In almost all of those areas, the Kings made improvements last season, but the theme was to continue to improve.

“It was a great opportunity to bring our entire organization together to not only discuss how we can continue to grow but also how we can continue to serve our fans in a way that will fuel their passion for the Kings,” McGowan said.

While it might seem obvious, one thing that struck me was how closely the success of the team, on ice, is tied to the success of each of these areas. It’s particularly obvious that the better the players perform, the more that fans will buy tickets, but it really does trickle down to all areas. When the team performs well, the sponsorship folks can negotiate deals that are more advantageous to the team and can start their work earlier in the year, because there’s more buzz around the team. Same for areas such as group sales and suite sales. Several presenters made reference to the team’s struggles in recent years, and the financial impact, in contrast to how things improved last season when fans/companies were more excited about the on-ice product. It seemed to underscore something that we all understand: the Kings could be on the verge of something big, if they can take the next step on the ice. The next two or three years would seem to be particularly important, in all areas.

I found it interesting that approximately one quarter of the Kings’ annual revenue comes from television rights fees, and that the local broadcasts (FSN) bring in almost twice as much as the Kings’ share of the national TV revenue. I found it interesting that events such as the NHL Draft and Hockey Fest actually cost the Kings money, but are viewed as worthwhile because of the positive attention they bring to the market. There was a lot of talk about charitable events, and Brown came up to talk about his work with “KaBOOM” and the park he is helping to develop in Carson. Every month has some type of community/charity tie-in, and they’re all planned far in advance.

There was talk about some of the new features the Kings will be doing online this year, including a lot of interactive stuff with players, coaches and broadcasters that could be really strong, and a lot of discussion about how to best utilize social media. You can also be assured that the Kings are appreciative of the support you have given to this blog (as am I!).

The most compelling stuff, from a fan’s perspective, was probably the “hockey operations” update from Murray and Hextall. John Stevens also attended and was introduced to the group. Murray made a particularly nice gesture when he thanked the staff for their work, and related a story of how, when he coached in Washington, he used to hang out with the sales folks. Murray told the group how two staff members who did “cold calls” in Washington eventually moved on to bigger roles, Doug Armstrong as an NHL general manager and Brent Flahr as an assistant general manager, and encouraged the Kings’ staff to strive toward bigger goals.

In the latest “injured prospect” update, Hextall revealed that Vyacheslav Voynov has a shoulder injury and is “not going to be healthy at the start of the year.” Murray noted, in what shouldn’t be a surprise, that the Kings would not consider carrying three goaltenders and that he would prefer to limit his No. 1 goalie to a range of 55-58 games next season. Murray singled out Kyle Clifford and Brayden Schenn as “hungry, both looking to crack the lineup this year” and said that he had spent a significant amount of time this summer watching video of the Kings’ forecheck and breakouts from last season, looking for a way to improve the 5-on-5 offense.

There was much more from the day, but hopefully this serves as a good “highlights” package…

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