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SHERMAN OAKS : Memorabilia Score Big With Kings’ Fans

Barbara Buck is a true Kings fan. Her loyalties date back to the years of interminable losses. She buys the hockey team’s T-shirts, its hats, and her garb from head to toe is silver and black.

But she draws the line at the “puck head.”

“I don’t think I would wear that more than once,” she said, warily eyeing the stacks of gray Styrofoam hats. “It’s like a prom dress.”

Despite Buck’s skepticism, the “puck head,” a puck-shaped hat the size and shape of a casserole dish, is a best seller at the Slap Shop, a Sherman Oaks store that offers almost exclusively Los Angeles Kings’ memorabilia.

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The store is one of three in the region owned by the hockey team, which is licensed by the National Hockey League to market the Kings’ logo.

Since the Kings made their Phoenix-like rise from the ranks of perennially losing teams to a place in the Stanley Cup finals, the store “has been setting records every day,” said Jill Keenan, manager of the Sherman Oaks store.

“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “The only thing we had to compare was Christmas Eve. It’s like that every day.”

Kings’ merchandising is just a small portion of overall profits for the hockey team, Keenan said. But since the team won the Smythe Division title, the merchandising wing has been riding a tide of success, she said. At her store, 1,500 customers per day snap up Kings shot glasses, key chains, puck-shaped paperweights, broken sticks from games, autographed photos, T-shirts, caps and pins as fast as they’re put on the shelves, Keenan said.

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Harvey Boles, executive director of merchandising for the Kings, declined to say what profits he expects from the team’s sales of paraphernalia this year. But he said that recently, single-day sales at the three Slap Shop outlets have surpassed sales from the entire month of June last year.

Those who buy cite a variety of motivations, including the hope that Kings’ memorabilia will accrue in value in coming years. Others, such as Granada Hills accountant Jim Karp, say the knickknacks and clothing give buyers “a sense of belonging--it just brings you that much closer to the team.”


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