The other day I went to a hockey game that featured the Montreal Canadiens vs. the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell Center. It was really exciting with back and forth action for the entire game. Another fun part was the crowd; they were really loud and passionate as always. As for me, I was doing my best to make my boos heard over the noise. I have not booed a referee that much in a while. In the end, the Habs won the game and sent us home happy.
The thing is I didn’t plan on buying tickets and had missed the day where tickets went on sale to the public. Traditionally if you miss it, you are out of luck. The Canadiens have sold out so quickly over the last few years that they have to keep some tickets aside for secondary sales, which occurs each and every month. They have also added the ticket vault where season ticket holders can sell their tickets if they decide they cannot make the game, or do not feel like going, and want some of their money back.
So how did I manage to get tickets for the game on game day? Well I got a very unique email. The email stated that there were at least 5 games that had pairs of tickets available for this season. Now I know that it is only 5 games and it would seem as the others were sold out. The ending of the lockout caught them off guard and they had to put the tickets on sale right away, so some people were not ready to buy. The Montreal Gazette came out with a story discussing the same thing, but had Donald Beauchamp Senior Vice President, Communications and Community Relations justify why he felt the tickets did not sell out just yet.
There is, however, another factor, and frankly it is quite simple – the ticket prices are just too high for everyone to afford. Looking at the prices for the Canadiens, the most expensive ticket is $257 in the front row while the cheapest ticket (not including kids) is $42-43 dollars for a regular game. The “Optimum” games are even higher at $418 as the most expensive, while the cheapest seat shoots up to $63-64 dollars. Optimum games, for those who don’t know, are games that are rivalries like Boston or Toronto, or ones that feature must-see players like the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, and the New York Rangers’ Rick Nash and Brad Richards.
The Canadiens are not the only Canadian team that is a bit pricey. Here are some of the ticket prices that I was able to find:
Ottawa Senators: Reg $ 16-131, Premium $51 – $246 (not including standing room)
The Calgary Flames ticket range from $40 – $270
Winnipeg Jets $50 – $205
Edmonton Oilers $60 – $300
Vancouver Canucks $73 – $255
Edmonton Oilers $60 – $300
Toronto Maple Leafs Regular: $55 – $416, Premium games $70 – $450
As you can see the cheapest tickets can be found in Ottawa, but they rise when a premium team is in town, also the cheapest tickets of course are the cheap seats in the upper decks of all these arenas. The Leafs have the most expensive tickets. Interestingly enough, the Leafs’ premium games do not raise as dramatically as the Canadiens prices do. What this means is that sooner or later tickets could get so expensive that it will further limit the kind of people who get to go to an NHL game in Canada as well as cut out people who have low incomes entirely. In many cases this is already true.
What needs to be done is that the teams need to stop raising the prices when the team has a losing season. How can you justify raising ticket prices when the product on the ice is lousy and losing? I also think it’s time to eliminate the premium games, because now it limits games that some people can’t afford, which means they may never see Crosby or Stamkos play. If they have to keep the premium prices up, then they need to give back to the fans with a bobblehead, a deck of trading cards and free food – some added value to the fans that spend so much money. I also think if they raise ticket prices they need to justify why they are going up and to explain to the fans why they should spend hundreds of dollars for these seats. Basically they need to be responsible and accountable.
If you look at it this way, if you buy a pair of tickets at the highest price at the Bell Center or the Air Canada Center you could easily have a mini vacation for two with that kind of money. The sad part for me is although I hate paying so much, I love the game so much and I will still go because it is exciting and fun. I love supporting my team and going to watch it live, but like a lot of other people at one point I will not be able to afford it. It comes down to this, as long as it is popular the fans will go, but sooner or later it will be too expensive and people might turn to other sports and other outings. You’d think after this unfortunate lockout that just passed the owners would start treating the fans a lot better. I just hope at one point they will stop gouging us at every opportunity they get when it comes to hockey and just let us go and enjoy the game we love so much.
(Note: All ticket prices were found on the team sites, nhl.com and stubhub)