Talk to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and you’d think his league was recession-proof. Of course, you’d also be led to believe that there are 30 perfectly healthy franchises, too.
But even Bettman has to be able to see through his rose-colored glasses how the battered economy is affecting the game. That the Florida Panthers have a promotion that is selling absurdly cheap tickets is not unusual. After all, the joke in South Florida is that nobody actually pays to watch the Panthers play.
But when the Stanley Cup champions in one of the most robust hockey markets in the league is doing the same thing, the alarm bells should be ringing.
The Detroit Red Wings recently announced they will be selling some seats for as low as $9 per game in December and January. In reality, it is only a couple hundred seats that would not have been sold anyway at a time of year when people aren’t exactly rolling in disposable income. Instead of having those seats empty, the Red Wings will fill them for a nominal charge and reap the benefits from parking and concessions that come with it.
But on the flip side, this is also the defending Cup champs, a team that is giving every indication it will make a serious run for a repeat championship. They’re one of the most star-studded, exciting teams to watch in the league. But they still have to sell tickets for nine bucks?
The Panthers, meanwhile, are even more desperate to move tickets. They currently have a promotion that allows fans to buy any three games of their choice – so conceivably a fan could see Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin twice and Alex Ovechkin once – for as low as $51.
But that’s not all. Should the Panthers win one of those games, the fan gets another free ticket and a Panthers hat.
So if the Panthers were to win one of those games, that means four people would be able to see four Panthers games against the top players in the world for a total of $204, or $12.75 per game, plus a hat that probably retails for about $20.
To take it a step further, if a fan were to get lucky picking his games, he’d be able to see the remainder of the Panthers’ 35 home games this season (and get nine hats) for $459, which is the price some people are willing to pay to see one Toronto Maple Leafs game.
Tickets have as much to do with supply and demand as they do anything else, which is why these ducats are almost being given away, but surely the economy, which isn’t showing any signs of getting better, has something to do with it.
Things just seem to be going from bad to worse for the Dallas Stars, a team some had pegged for a Stanley Cup contender this season.
Earlier this week, the Stars ran into salary cap trouble and thought they could slip 23-year-old right winger B.J. Crombeen through waivers and send him down to the minors without him being picked up, but the Stars lost the gamble when the St. Louis Blues picked him.
So the Stars ended up losing a cheap, useful utility player who could have played on their third or fourth line, and a player they spent three years developing, for nothing. As it turned out, there were actually six claims put in on Crombeen, but the Blues got him by virtue of being the last-place team in the NHL.
A TALE OF TWO PLAYERS
It’s interesting that the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs will each honor the numbers of one of their iconic players tomorrow night.
In fact, the Patrick Roy and Wendel Clark illustrate the difference between these two franchises since expansion more than 40 years ago.
Roy was a superstar by any definition in an organization that has had a pantheon of them, and no shortage of them in goal. Clark, on the other hand, was a very good, workmanlike player whose grit, dedication and decency as a person defined his career. The Leafs, on the other hand, have never, ever had a true superstar player in their lineup, even when they were winning Stanley Cups.
Here’s betting, too, that the Canadiens’ ceremony will be elegant and poignant, because nobody does these things better than they do. The Leafs, on the other hand, will likely keep it simple and reserved. Here’s hoping, though, they’re not as ham-handed as some of the other ceremonies have been in the past.
Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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