BY REBECCA AGULE
Having spent the last year in a city void of rain, where you have to go through the Russian Mafia to get extra ice in your drink, I thought, what better way to get into the swing of New England than to attend an NHL game, sitting indoors, bundled up, staring at ice?
So I decided to see my newly-resold beloved Penguins when they come to town in January to play the Bruins. By waiting until 2007, I assumed that I would have no trouble getting affordable seats. And who knows, maybe by then I would even have some Law School friends to rope into joining me.
Going online to do a ticket search, I quickly found that this notion of cheap tickets was, well, nothing more than a notion. For that game on January 18th, still months away, there were no $10 seats available, no $19 seats available. The best I could find? $26.50. Plus a $7.20 convenience fee. Not to make the easy joke, but convenient for whom, exactly? I whipped out my calculator and realized that it would cost $67.40 for me to simply walk through the gates with my imaginary friend, before we even contemplated a drink, snack or souvenir (imaginary friends are quite demanding). These seats were hardly rinkside; for my outlay of a week’s worth of grocery money, I would get the privilege of sitting in the balcony. Which isn’t quite as romantic in hockey as it is at the opera.
Perhaps the possibility of seeing Sidney Crosby had caused this rush on the lower-priced tickets. I know that prospect contributes to my desire… to attend games. But, really, this was hardly a pack of superstars swarming into town. It was not as if Penguins Chairman Mario Lemieux would travel with the team. Or Coach Wayne Gretzky would be ice-side, as with his Phoenix Coyotes.
Now, I often find myself quite relieved that, at this point in my life, I do not have children. I am clearly too selfish; I often notice nothing past the end of my own nose, and, were there kids involved, I would probably have to put more effort into housing than just signing up for a dorm room.
But this relief has never been greater than when I checked into buying those tickets for the upcoming NHL season. I can hardly afford to take myself – God forbid there were also young ‘uns in tow. Young ‘uns who get hungry and thirsty and grabby. I doubt they grant mortgages to attend sporting events.
After the cancelled 2004-2005 season, I assumed the NHL would be courting the return of fans, attempting to not only put the best possible product on the ice, but also to make it feasible for those of us retaining affection for the game to actually see said ice.
There have been some positive moves, especially in terms of increasing offense and game speed, removing the two-line pass penalty, and shortening the neutral zone. We have known for a while that the league required those changes, and for these prices, it hardly seems unreasonable to demand a thrilling, electrifying game. This is not exactly the $15 it costs to catch our very own Crimson. You pay more for professionals, you expect more from professionals. So one must wonder, do the teams truly want anyone to see these changes take effect?
Granted, during the first season back, 2005-2006, teams sold-out arenas all over hockey-dom. But at that point, we were starving; we had not seen professional hockey for over a year. So how long does the league expect such fervor to last? And this is to say nothing of their lack of gratitude for those of us who did not write off the entire league after watching rich men argue over who should become even richer.
The Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes led the charge in charging, and the average ticket price – before fees or delivery or parking or food – is now $43, an increase of nearly 4%. At just over $25, the Coyotes have the cheapest seats; it seems they do want everyone to see The Great One.
So what is an average, loan-riddled fan to do?
The cost hardly draws newcomers to the rink. As a general sports fan, Maran White, 3L, would love to see the NHL up close and personal. She has only ever known the Columbus Cottonmouths, a Georgia team – a hockey experience that clearly speaks for itself.
“I’d be very interested in a professional hockey game,” White said. “But I would be easily scared away by high ticket prices. A sport whose image is ailing will obviously not gain any new fans by charging ridiculous ticket prices.”
Sadly, she will not want for company when watching at home. And hockey simply does not translate well to television, with or without the blue streak on the puck. To grow its base, to make TV contracts worth the pulp upon which they are written, the league must first inspire love of the game, love that only blossoms after seeing hockey’s skill and speed and beauty live.
3L Dan Vorhaus, an avowed San Jose Sharks fan, minces no words when asked about the labor dispute and cancelled season.
“I don’t think I blame either side,” Vorhaus said. “I’m a comparative negligence kind of guy, so I think they each deserve roughly half the blame. It was a stupid, stupid move, for so many reasons. I liken it to a fight between two guys over the same girl: if you wind up ripping off both her arms does it really matter who was the instigator? You’re both obviously yo-yos. OK, that was sort of an inane example but hopefully you get the point.”
Without access to his team, Vorhaus sees few reasons to travel to the aptly named TD Bankhouse Arena, especially with current prices. “I don’t follow college hockey much, so for that reason, I’d probably prefer a Bruins game,” he said. “Then again, if tickets to college games are a lot cheaper that would make a difference for me, as I do really hate my loans.”
As is usually the case when dealing with out-of-touch professional sports, only those of us hoping to attend games get the point. So the question is – will management ever take notice and actually let us in the front door?
Perhaps 3L Russell Valdez best managed to say what we are all truly thinking: “Those greedy mother puckers.”
Rebecca Agule, 1L, has decided that real world problems are too scary for today, so she would like to concentrate on the simpler things in life.