Toronto, ON All over the league, NHL clubs are doing their part to try and give back to the fans in an attempt to make up for time lost to the 2012 Lockout. In Toronto, the fans were treated to a free open practice at the Air Canada Centre yesterday, which is a rarity for us, as most practices are closed to the public, and when they aren’t, they’re usually not free. The Leafs are also giving away free tickets to their home opener on January 21st, and even waived the cost for season ticket holders. Now, in my opinion, free tickets is not a satisfactory means of doing right by the fans, as these perks are only available to a small geographical portion of their fan base. Especially in a city like Toronto, where non-season seats are few in number, but that’s another rant. Plus, I’m out of town on the 21st! It is, however, a nice enough gesture.
Unfortunately, in the next province over, the still fresh season seat holder community of the Winnipeg Jets is being further inconvenienced by more NHL-related penny pinching. When their much anticipated season ticket packages arrived in the mail this week, I’m sure many valued season ticket holders were thrown into a frenzy of both panic and rage. Unbeknownst to them, the Jets organization decided to drop the traditional paper tickets, and adopt a new plastic season pass. Sure, this may seem like a positive thing. Dropping paper tickets is very “green” and all that jazz. Unfortunately, in the season ticket holder game, reselling is a top priority, and now it is nearly impossible.
Think about how much it costs to go to ONE NHL game in certain markets. In some places a front row seat is nearly $600! Now think about how much it costs to buy tickets for ALL 41 home games (in normal seasons). In Toronto, some season ticket holders pay $10,000 a seat! Not many people like hockey THAT much! Reselling tickets becomes a necessity, so that fans aren’t forced to swallow thousands of dollars worth of games they either couldn’t attend, or simply didn’t want to attend.
With this new paperless pass, fans DO have the ability to transfer tickets electronically, but this limits to whom they can resell their tickets. Reseller sites like StubHub prohibit buyers and sellers from communicating. Therefore, it is actually impossible to obtain personal information in order to make the transfer with a total stranger. I don’t know about you, but most of my friends don’t share my on-the-glass taste, and if I were a season seat holder, who could no longer resell to strangers online, I’d be hard pressed to find a friend willing to pay face value for my seats. Plus, I don’t know many people who can afford to pay for their season tickets on their own. My uncle owns 1 out of 4 shares of his Leafs tickets, and he isn’t friends with 2 of the other shares. Shuffling a pass between shareholders is also a pain in the ass. As is transferring your tickets to friends (or other), if you aren’t the official season seat holder on the team’s record books.
The Buffalo Sabres have some of the best season seat benefits in the NHL. With their graduated pricing based on game day and opponent, season ticket holders in Buffalo are able to turn their passion for hockey into a nice chunk of beer money. The Sabres rank their games as Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Value, with a Gold game being nearly 5x the value of a Value game. Yet, in Buffalo, cherished season ticket holders pay slightly less than the Value price for ALL games, so even if you were to only resell for face value, you are still turning a decent profit. I know people that buy season seats just so they can attend a few games of their choice for free. Once, while I was at a Coyotes game at First Niagara Center, a fan sitting next to me told me he owned 10 seats across the lower bowl, and was enjoying large reselling profits without having to rip anybody off. Could you imagine if, out of the blue, the Sabres had sent him a pass instead of 10 books of tickets this week? Ouch. I’m sure there were quite a few Jets fans in this position, though, as tickets sold like hotcakes as soon as the move from Atlanta was announced.
As for me, and traveling fans just like me, we are also getting screwed out of any up-coming trips to MTS Centre. Traveling around the NHL, you will always find sold out markets, but this is never something to be discouraged about. Just because there isn’t a seat available via the team’s official box office, you can always find tickets on reseller sites, and fan exchanges. Most of my hockey tickets come from sites like StubHub, as I can still get the seat I want without having to compete for team tickets months in advance of the game. I don’t often plan ahead, and most road trips are spontaneous anyway.
When the NHL schedule was released last weekend, I instantly booked myself on a flight to Winnipeg, so that I could get another notch on my belt of visited NHL arenas. At that time, sites like StubHub hadn’t uploaded the new 48-game schedule yet, but I was quite confident that no matter what happened I’d get a seat. Day after day I checked StubHub and other reselling sites, but the tickets weren’t there. That is, the small handful of tickets that were there were rapist prices for non-Psycho quality seats. What’s worse is that Winnipeg has some really messed up sales policies of their own. They release tickets for only a few games at a time, and it’s only whatever the fans, that were chosen in their “Random Draw,” didn’t buy up before the public gains access. So basically, with this new season pass, non-season seat holders can only obtain tickets if they win the lottery!
In other words, I’m majorly @#$%ed! I have a flight to Winnipeg coming up quite soon (hotels, too!), but no hockey ticket, and no Jets season ticket holders listed in my address book. I’ve never in my life been bested by a hockey team. Most people consider me the master of obtaining amazing seats in hard to get places. There’s no auction I haven’t won! Yet, here I am, with a crazy hockey adventure scheduled (that I had been looking forward to since the Jets came home, I might add), and I am most likely going to have to cancel it, if I can’t figure out a solution ASAP. Will Winnipeg end up being the ONLY NHL team I never see in their home barn? If this paperless policy doesn’t change, then the answer is undoubtedly a regrettable, “Yes.” This would never happen in Atlanta!
Top Photo: Enjoying the Leafs open practice at the Air Canada Centre yesterday. Had I known I’d be on the glass, I wouldn’t have shown up barefaced and yoga pantsed!