The Devils have "slipped to 27th in the NHL" in attendance at 14,604 fans per game, the "lowest for the team since 2006-07, when the Devils were a lame duck playing at Continental Arena in the Meadowlands," according to John Brennan of the Bergen RECORD. But Devils President of Business Operations Hugh Weber "isn’t exactly panicking." Weber noted that attendance "is down less than 800 fans per game from 2011-12, the last full NHL season." Weber added there used to be “a lot of high-discount, volume tickets, and we’ve stopped that strategy.” This also is the "time of year that franchises focus on season ticket renewals." Weber said, “All things being equal, we should be in a much better position next season because of our season ticket base." Weber said while team execs have looked “section by section” at ticket prices, "in general, ticket prices will be flat” in '14-15 compared to this season (NORTHJERSEY.com, 3/6).
OH, GOD! YOU DEVIL: In New Jersey, Tom Gulitti notes the NHL on Thursday announced that it has "reduced the penalty it assessed the Devils for circumventing the salary cap" on former LW Ilya Kovalchuk’s rejected contract in '10. The Devils were "due to surrender their first-round pick this year to complete the penalty." Instead, the Devils "will pick 30th (last) in the first round of the 2014 draft regardless of where they finish in the standings." Additionally, the NHL will return $1.5M of the $3M fine the Devils "paid as part of the punishment." The Devils "eventually signed" Kovalchuk to a 15-year, $100M deal on Sept. 4, 2010. But Kovalchuk “retired” from the NHL and walked away from the final 12 seasons of the contract last summer (Bergen RECORD, 3/7).
The Bills for the first time since '10 have "raised season-ticket prices," an increase the team "called 'modest' in a statement," according to Jay Skurski of the BUFFALO NEWS. Season tickets in '13 "ranged for $225 to $720 in regular seating areas and $1,278 to $2,790 for a club seat." This year, club seats "range from $1,470 to $3,100." In '13, a ticket "on the 50-yard line in the first 20 rows of the upper deck ... cost $70 per game ($630 for nine games in the season)." This year, the "same ticket costs $75 ($750 for a 10-game schedule)." Last year, to "sit in the lower bowl between the 30-yard lines" it cost $720, or $80 for nine games. This year, it "averages $90 over 10 games, $900 for the season." The Bills on Thursday also announced that they "will debut a variable ticket-pricing plan for preseason and regular-season games." Details of the variable pricing "have not yet been announced, but the formula is likely to factor heavily the attractiveness of the opponent and when the game is played." The '14 season will be the "first time it’s used in the NFL." The Lions and Patriots are "among the teams that have previously announced similar plans." Last season, the Bills "sold 42,540 season tickets." Despite that base, and the "fact the Bills have one of the lowest season-ticket prices in the NFL, they failed to sell out one game" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/7).
Indians President Mark Shapiro said that the team's run to the postseason last year has "given them a slight jolt at the box office -- the team had a 90% renewal rate on season tickets, which is very good -- but not enough of one to make them feel comfortable," according to Kevin Kleps of CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS. The Indians for the second consecutive season "are spending to contend." Shapiro last month said that the team's payroll "would increase about" 10% this year. But the "combination of increased hope, the 2013 postseason appearance and a very likable team has yet to push the season-ticket base to 8,000." By comparison, in '07, when the Indians "finished within a game of going to the World Series for the first time since 1997, the club had about 13,000 season-ticket holders." Shapiro said, "We're not at 8,000. We're above last year, and maybe once it warms up and we get closer to opening day we'll make a push toward 8,000. But as of right now, 8,000 looks like it will be a little bit of a reach. It's possible, but it's a little bit of a reach." Shapiro repeatedly has said that winning "is the 'biggest lever' the Indians can pull when it comes to driving attendance." Kleps wrote even if the season-ticket numbers "aren't soaring, there is some momentum from last season's brief playoff appearance." Shapiro: "To be frank, we've had some concerns the past three or four years whether we would even sell out the opener. It took a while for it to happen (in the past). For it to happen as quick as it did ..." (CRAINSCLEVELAND.com, 3/6).
In DC, Mike Wise notes Wizards and Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis will not discuss the future of Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld "just as he won’t talk about" the future of Capitals VP & GM George McPhee. All Monumental Sports & Entertainment business "apparently will be handled this summer." While McPhee "may need a Stanley Cup playoff run of at least two or more rounds to warrant an extension, the signs of Grunfeld being re-signed are growing daily." Wise: "I thought Ernie was finally toast ... but the recycling king did it." The Wizards have "a very good core group, with its two best players 20 and 23 years old, respectively" and have "put themselves in position salary-cap wise to spend in free agency the next two seasons" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/7).
THINK TANK: CBS Sports Network's Tony Luftman said the idea that some NBA teams are tanking this season for a better draft pick is "terrible" for the NBA. He said, "The saddest part of this is that it's the moral failure of the NBA to allow this system to continue. The essence of competition is seeking victory, and yet you're rewarding teams for losing." But CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel said, "The 76ers aren't trying to lose, they can't win. They're not any good" ("Rome," CBS Sports Network, 3/6).
IGNORANCE IS BLISS? Knicks fans planning are planning a rally on March 19 to protest Owner James Dolan's handling of the team, but ESPN's Max Kellerman said the team's supporters are "missing it again." Kellerman: "We have to ignore (the team), boycott them until Dolan sells the team. Do not protest because it shows you're still interested" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 3/6).
DINO DIGS: The Raptors on Thursday formally announced the return of their original purple jersey for select home games next season when they celebrate their 20th anniversary in the NBA. The uniform top features the Raptors font in silver with the team's dinosaur motif in action with basketball in hand (Raptors).
In Ft. Lauderdale, Juan Rodriguez reports the Red Sox have apologized to the Marlins for fielding a lineup during a Spring Training game Thursday that featured "two players with major league experience." Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill "received an email" from Red Sox GM Ben Cherington during Thursday's game. Hill said, “We got an email from their GM saying they had some injuries and were working on some things. He apologized, so I don't know if that meant he got a call from the league or what” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 3/7).
SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE? In N.Y., Josh Kosman reports the Dodgers have to “fork over” $1.9B in revenue-sharing payments to MLB “over the 25-year term of its media rights deal with Time Warner Cable -- 63 percent more than it had expected.” Dodgers Owner Guggenheim Baseball Management “expected to pay” $1.19B in revenue-sharing payments for the TWC deal involving the team’s RSN, SportsNet LA. The $1.9B in payments -- $41M in ’14, $48M in ’15 and 4% annual increases after -- “will leave the owners about $710 million lighter” (N.Y.POST, 3/7).
THE LANGUAGE OF DOLPHINS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes under the header, "Dolphins Owner Steve Ross Needs To Get More Involved." The Dolphins "need to open up avenues of communication inside the organization." Ross could help do so if he "got to know the people inside his team." Hyde: "Start with the trainers and weight-room people who spend more time with the players than anyone. Build trust and relationships inside the walls" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/7).