The Tampa Bay Lightning have apologized to Paul Dhillon, an Army captain, after he attempted to sell his Stanley Cup Final tickets on the secondary market in what the team considered a violation of its ticket policy.
The Tampa Bay Times reports Dhillon attempted to sell his tickets because he was unable to attend the final series against the Chicago Blackhawks. An assistant professor at the University of South Florida’s Army ROTC program, Dhillon is stationed in Fort Knox, Ky., for five weeks of Army training.
At the beginning of the playoffs, the Lightning instituted a ticket policy that has since proven controversial: out-of-state residents cannot buy tickets from the team, which will also ask fans in various club seating areas who wear apparel for the opposing team to remove it.
Dhillon told the Times he sold “about half” of his 41 regular-season tickets on Stubhub without issue, but encountered difficulty selling his tickets for the first-round playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings.
From the Times:
Dhillon said he was contacted by Jarrod Dillon, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Lightning, who said the team preferred he didn’t sell his tickets in a way where they could end up in the hands of Red Wings fans.
“I told him ‘I completely agree as a Lightning fan but I can’t control who buys the tickets on StubHub,’” Dhillon said.
Dhillon was informed he had three options: Use the tickets, give them back to the team for games he couldn’t attend or have his account canceled. Though it meant forgoing large profits on the secondary market, Dhillon didn’t sell any more tickets for the next two rounds.
For the Stanley Cup Final, though, he thought if he resold the tickets through Ticketmaster’s resale exchange accessed through the Lightning website, Ticketmaster would block anyone outside Florida from buying his tickets. He sold two $290 tickets to Game 2 against the Chicago Blackhawks for $2,600 apiece.
Dhillon later received a call from the Lightning telling him the team was taking the rest of his tickets, although it backtracked a day later. He was still able to use his tickets, but only if he picked them up from will call in person. He was also locked out of his online ticketing account.
Dhillon was allowed to give tickets to a Lightning fan, although he was required to inform will call who was taking his place. He gave his Game 1 tickets to a neighbor, who later told him Blackhawks fans were sitting directly behind his seats.
Dhillon texted Dillon with the Lightning to ask why he was targeted but not those ticket holders.
Dillon responded: “Looking into it now. Thanks for the heads up.”
And later: “Just wanted you to know, that account behind you has been relocated for the rest of the cup and next year. Thanks for bringing to my attention.”
Bill Wickett, Lightning executive vice president of communications, said those seats belonged to a ticket broker who willingly moved when approached by the team.
Lightning officials have supported the ticket policy, although the Times reports Dhillon has been allowed to print, transfer or sell his tickets online again.
“Five years ago there was hardly a pulse for this franchise and there were games that were overwhelmed with opposing fans. Fans said to us, ‘fix it,’” Leiweke said. “What we’ve tried to do is live up to our pledge to our fans that we're going to create a great environment.
“I specifically apologize to this [captain],” he said, “but I’m not going to apologize for our efforts to make sure this building is our home.”
- Mike Fiammetta