If there is a worse way for a professional sport to handle distribution of tickets I’m sure the NHL will be the first ones to adopt it. The Winter Classic game could be about the garnering of new fans, but instead the NHL is distancing itself from the fan base it already has.
I’m going to start with Season Ticket Holders.I will give this to the NHL, this year is better than the first year the NHL held the Winter Classic when the NHL allotted the Penguins season ticket holders 1500 tickets. They still haven’t figured it out. This game is a regular season game. Though it’s not considered a home game for the Pittsburgh Penguins, it is in our city. Season Ticket Holders of the home team, in this case the Washington Capitals (long story), should have been awarded first choice out of all the seats, then Season Ticket Holders (from here on out referred to as STH’s) of the away team.
Instead the NHL distributed tickets to STH’s according to where they sit in their arena. Once again screwing their most devoted fan base. Most STH’s of the upper bowls of both the Capitals and Penguins arena’s got tickets in the very upper bowl of Heinz Field behind non season ticket holders. What did many Penguins fans who hold season tickets and support their team all year long get for their team devotion? The upper bowl end zone seats, yes the frozen bleacher benches in the end zone of Heinz Field or as we call it here on PenguinPoop.com, “the Shaft”. Yes, they got “the Shaft”
Then a week ago on December 14th the Penguins announced to STH’s that they had more tickets available for sale at 10am and placed their usually no where near enough people manning their phones, most likely 2 people, to field thousands of calls. With no announcement of when they were sold out, just a busy signal all day.
Then there are the Pittsburgh Steeler seat license holders were offered 3000 to 5000 tickets in a lottery, the real number is unknown, but many of those fans are unhappy because with the purchase of their seat licenses for thousands of dollars they were supposed to receive first right of refusal for any and all events at Heinz Field.
The NHL is claiming to have given the Penguins 30,000 tickets, the Capitals 20,000 tickets, the Steelers 3000 to 5000 tickets and are distributing 10,000 tickets themselves.
For the rest of the supposed 10,000 tickets, the NHL held a lottery. On the NHL’s website you had to chance to enter a lottery before November 15th, the winner would be the fans who would be lucky enough to buy the tickets to the Winter Classic not taken by season ticket holders. How many tickets there were in the lottery, nobody knows, but if you won the NHL would contact you. Wonderful.
If you lost, there was absolutely no communication, not one email, no date of when you would know by, nothing. A “Hey, sorry you didn’t win tickets, you may want to start looking for them elsewhere” would have been nice.
The reason nobody knows how many tickets were available is because out of the 10,000 tickets they had, the NHL has dolled out tickets to sponsors of the NHL, sponsor prospects of the NHL, media outlets, people that work at the NHL and their families. They had also given many people involved in youth hockey chances for tickets, which they had hoped would pay dividends for the future of the NHL.
Unfortunately If you look on the ticket & auction sites around the internet, you will see over 7,000 tickets for sale at any given time. The people like the people involved in sponsorship and youth hockey to whom the NHL in good faith sold tickets, only purchased the tickets to turn a profit, believe me, I know many of them. Also many season ticket holders are selling or have sold their crap tickets, for an upgrade. If you went to the Buffalo Winter Classic, you know you can’t see a thing from the nose bleed seats and will spend the whole time watching the big screen.
I’ve never been one to complain about something without offering a better idea. A forward thinking person at the NHL could rectify the Winter Classic ticket selling problem and make a small fortune for the NHL in the process.
1) Sell the tickets to Season ticket holders of both teams at a set price and make sure not to get in a problematic deal like the one with Heinz Field and their seat License holders.
2) Auctions have become and acceptable way to sell tickets, take a look at the thousand some Winter Classic tickets available on Ebay. Have an auction for the leftover seats available to the general public. The NHL says prices are set by demand, with an auction they truly are. Prices for the auction start at base seat prices and go up from there. The auction would be over the period of a month so people that have to work would not get screwed because they couldn’t call in at 10am.
Not one fan would be upset with this process, ticket prices would be set by demand and fans would know how much and how many tickets there are. On top of that, the NHL would pocket the excess. The only people upset with the process would be the ticket companies and scalpers who would be cut off at the pass.
Another thing the NHL should do is invest in it’s own ticket company, or create their own. The NHL with 23 million tickets for sale each year is tied for second behind Major League Baseball in event tickets available for purchase over the last 5 years. Ticket master adds crazy surcharges like the $13 it added to each of the $25 tickets for the Winter Classic Alumni game. Multiply $13 times 10 thousand tickets and Ticketmaster made 130 thousand on that event alone. You have to wonder if Ticketmaster is making some side deals for money also, Friday about 20 minutes after the Alumni game sold out supposedly in 4 seat per person quantities, many ticket brokers were selling the tickets with up to 20 seats together online for exorbitant prices. If 4 was the max you could get together, how do they have 20 seats together 20 minutes later?
For Pittsburgh Penguin fans who have not been able to get a ticket at or around face value, you may want to start questioning what they did with the tickets. I’m being generous when I say the Penguins have 16,000 season ticket holders, at last check the number was a bit above 14,000. The waiting list is about 4000 and those people were promised Winter Classic tickets also. That is a total of 20,000 tickets. If the NHL gave them 30,000, that is a 10,000 ticket difference or the same amount the NHL dished out. Where did those tickets go?