NHL’s Handling of Winter Classic Tickets Fails Once Again – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

NHL’s Handling of Winter Classic Tickets Fails Once Again

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?

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  1. Zoe's Gravatar Zoe
    December 28, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I agree with everything you said. I’m one of the STH with the crap seats. I was expecting much better seats since we support the team year round. I know Steeler fans that got better seat than the STH for $20 more a seat

    • Jean Pronovost's Gravatar Jean Pronovost
      December 29, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Zoe – Apparently, the lucky Steeler season ticket holders that did get tickets probably got nicer ones than many of the Penguin season tickets holders because of one fact: The Steeler season ticket holders hold the seat license to almost every seat in Heinz Field and were told when they purchased their seat license that they would be given first crack at buying seats for every event ever held at Heinz Field. I’m guessing that they really only ever thought it would be for concerts or monster truck pulls when they made that decision 10 years ago and never thought there would be an event played by a team that had its own ticket base. The people who should be most upset are the 50,000+ Heinz Field seat license holders who were NOT given the opportunity to purchase tickets for an event they were originally told they were entitled to.

  2. Mark Brady's Gravatar Mark Brady
    December 23, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Remember the scene in Jurassic Park where the evil capitalist business archetype mentions the price of visiting the island and the good and caring scientist said that this isn’t about money and it should be open to all people, and the evil capitalist said that one day a year they could have coupon day. Having tickets sold as an auction guarantees that only the wealthiest people will get to go, no Joe Sixpack and his little boy Elroy can keep up on an auction site… what he can do is try to have his wife dial in a 10AM or enter a lottery on NHL.COM. In fact it’s rather cynical that you begrudge people in youth hockey getting tickets just to turn around and sell them at a profit because they usually sell them on an auction site… so there, you’ve got your wish. But in the existing scenario, the little guy gets to profit from an auctioned ticket and in your scenario, the inflated prices generated by an auction all goes to the NHL. It’s like you’re practically an agent for the league, rabble rousing in order to gin up sentiment that will call for an even more profitable, less egalitarian distribution of tickets to a REGULAR season game.

  3. ain'tyourpuppet's Gravatar ain'tyourpuppet
    December 21, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Sold my crap bleacher seats, made $150 profit, I’m going to use it watching the game in a warm bar with a bunch of friends were I’ll be able to see the game and drink for about 1/3 of what it will cost there. I won’t be able to say I was there, but I won’t feel like I was taken advantage of either.

  4. Jean Pronovost's Gravatar Jean Pronovost
    December 21, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    From what I am hearing, not one Steeler season ticket got any WC tickets. The whole thing was just a ploy to placate them over the seat license deal. How do I know this? A very good friend of mine runs one of the largest ticket brokerages here in town and told me that they did not get one phone call from anyone looking to sell WC tickets they got from the Steelers. He said that just wouldn’t happen if 1500 – 2500 people got WC tickets through the Steelers. He said, “I can absolutely guarantee you someone that got them would have been looking to sell them to us”

    • December 22, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      I was at a customer’s home the other day, and he was very happy to show me his WC tickets that he was awarded as part of the Steelers season ticket holder lottery.

      • Mark Brady's Gravatar Mark Brady
        December 23, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        Why should we believe your own lyin’ eyes. Surely we should believe the pure conjecture of a ticket broker who doesn’t understand statistics. 😉

  5. Bouncerjay's Gravatar Bouncerjay
    December 21, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t have minded the upper bowl on the sideline, but the bench seats in the end zone is a slap in the face. If the Penguins got 30,000 tickets, that means that they most likely didn’t have to sit us STH’s in the end zone. I stuck with my tickets through the bad years, thank you Pens management for rewarding my support.

    • December 22, 2010 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      I am with you brother, I am a season ticket holder as well. I will be up in the bleacher seats. I am not sure it is the Penguins who relegated us STHs to peanut heaven. I understand that the NHL handled the ticket distribution. The STH seats were awarded based on the level of your tickets in the CEC. Not positive, but that is what I heard.

  6. micket's Gravatar micket
    December 21, 2010 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    count me in as a shafted season ticket holder a bunch of buddies in my section are pissed also a few have tried calling the pens and complaining its usless loyalty is a two way street

  7. Route66's Gravatar Route66
    December 20, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m at the game complaining about exactly what u wrote, the guy next to me told me to read this. I agree, I agree, I agree, thank you for writing this. The NHL screwed the pooch on this one and the pooch is NHL’s best friend. GO PENS!!!!!!!

  8. December 20, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    What I am not still in the lotto for tickets? They definitely need to do something different.

  9. Gary Bettman's Middle Finger's Gravatar Gary Bettman's Middle Finger
    December 20, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Even though it’s a regular-season game, it’s an NHL event. This is not a home game for either team. It is, first and foremost, a marketing endeavor intended to increase the NHL’s brand value.

    The first rule of sports event ticketing is to take care of the VIPs. The STHs are going to come no matter what. But you expect VIPs and those who get tix via corporate partners to sit in the upper deck? That’s not how these things work. You don’t have Crosby and Ovechkin appear on The Price is Right to give away nosebleed seats.

    Like all companies, the NHL has to keep its many sponsors and partners happy. It does that at events like this. Would you prefer that VIPs get first dibs on finals tickets when the Penguins fight for the Cup? I know I wouldn’t.

    Though this counts as 2 points, this is more of an event than a regular season game. So we shouldn’t be surprised when ticket policies reflect that. And let’s face it, the actual proximity to the ice won’t matter for this game — those in the best seats will be watching the big screens just like those in the highest row of the stadium.

    • Penguin871's Gravatar Penguin871
      December 20, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      So both teams still have 41 home games? You may want to re-check your facts.

      Yes, it’s an event, it is a hockey game also. Corporate people sit in super boxes, how many do you think will be sitting out in the elements? The NHL is screwing us fans. Lose the fans, lose the sponsorships, it’s that simple.

      NHL fans like me are notorius for supporting our teams and sponsors of our teams. I swore I’d never do it, but this year I went and purchased Chinese made jersey’s for me and as gifts the first time. I figured if the NHL wants to screw me a ticket holder with shitty seats, I’m not paying 4 times as much for a jersey to support their sorry asses.

      • PENSFAN's Gravatar PENSFAN
        December 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        Nice! NHL wants new fans, but how about the ones they already have. Companies are always looking for new people and then screw the people they already have that are loyal to them. NHL fits right into that.

        • Gary Bettman's Middle Finger's Gravatar Gary Bettman's Middle Finger
          December 21, 2010 at 8:12 am | Permalink

          As a whole, hockey fans are far more loyal than fans of other major North American sports. The NHL is very aware of this. It knows it can give the STH less-than-great seats and, though they’ll grumble about it, they’ll accept it. That fan fervor gives the league the ability to cater to sponsors and VIPs who may be casual fans in an effort to grow the game.

          And while that may suck in the short term, keep in mind that if the league successfully increases interest, it also will increase the value of its TV contract, which — in theory — ought to lower the percentage of league revenue from ticket sales. By a large margin, the NHL gets most of its money from ticket sales. If the interest of casual fans can be piqued, it could lessen the burden (at least from a percentage standpoint) on ticketholders.

          • ain'tyourpuppet's Gravatar ain'tyourpuppet
            December 21, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

            I noticed you mentioned marketing endeavor then used the phrase “less-than-great” I’m guessing your in marketing.

      • Gary Bettman's Middle Finger's Gravatar Gary Bettman's Middle Finger
        December 21, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        I know people who complained about the cost of their initial seating assignment in the lower bowl this season. several changed seats to the upper bowl; now they’re complaining they weren’t able to buy good seats down low for the WC.

        That said, way to justify pirating. It seems 80-percent of the jerseys owned by people I know are knockoffs. That’s a lot of revenue the NHL is missing out on, but hey, everyone wants a deal, right?

        I wonder how much of our ticket prices subsidize those losses, just like honest people subsidize insurance fraud. (Of course, if people bought only authentic jerseys, they would own a lot fewer of them, but still, the league would have more revenue.)

        • Mark Brady's Gravatar Mark Brady
          December 23, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

          The NHL isn’t a charity, a consumer shouldn’t be expected to pay for a more expensive product in order to support the business… the business should work to license a manufacturer that can make jerseys at a price consumers are willing to pay. You can either try to be elite and charge a premium like Sam Adams, or you can try to be cheap and sell to everyone like Coors. But you can be elite and moan about the fact that lots of people drink cheap beer.

          • Mark Brady's Gravatar Mark Brady
            December 23, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

            “can’t” obviously.

            • Mark Brady's Gravatar Mark Brady
              December 24, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink

              Which was corrected immediately. And I’m pretty sure my ‘typing error’ won’t mind being ostracized.

    • micket's Gravatar micket
      December 21, 2010 at 12:20 am | Permalink

      i taped the price is right to see crosby and he wasnt on the show he was on a tv recorded very stupid

    • December 22, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Though there are a lot of good points from both sides on this matter, let’s not lose sight of how exciting it is to just be a part of this event. I was unhappy about sitting in the bleachers, but ultimately, I will be tickled just to be there. I went to the WC in Buffalo and sat like five rows back. As it turns out, those seats sucked….bad. I could not see the game at all. 5 rows back in a football stadium with the ice rink 50 yards away means you can’t see shit. I watched most of the game on the jumbo-tron. IT WAS AN AWESOME EXPERIENCE.

      • Mark Brady's Gravatar Mark Brady
        December 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        Awesome comment. Some STH’s feel an overwhelming sense of entitlement. I bet fans of every team would like an extra regular season game in their backyard that they have first rights to buy.

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