Most NHL clubs say season tickets selling well
|The league’s Bill Daly sees business as usual despite hockey’s labor uncertainty.
In a survey of all 30 NHL clubs, officials from 21 teams said season-ticket sales either were up for the 2012-13 season or that their respective teams were at capacity and renewing season-ticket sales at a clip of 90 percent or more (see list at bottom of page). Officials at only three clubs said sales were the same or down; six clubs declined to comment.
Although many team officials would not comment on what impact, if any, the labor situation was having on ticket sales, representatives from about a dozen teams said the potential for a work stoppage this fall has had little to no impact on season-ticket holders putting down deposits for next season.
The NHL collective-bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 15. Formal bargaining sessions for a new deal had yet to begin as of last week.
“It certainly does evidence that our Clubs continue to approach next season on a ‘business as usual’ basis, and are not putting the brakes on their businesses or otherwise preordaining a work interruption, as some would like to suggest they (or we) are,” Daly said via email. “No need to at this point.”
Daly said season-ticket renewals were up across the league by about 3 percent over last year and that full-season-ticket sales overall — renewals plus new subscriptions — were up in excess of 7 percent.
For many clubs, there is no room for growth in season-ticket sales. Toronto and Montreal, for example, are sold out with waiting lists of thousands of people. Such is the case in Chicago, Boston and Buffalo, as well.
In Buffalo, there are 3,000 people on a waiting list for Sabres season tickets, and no one cancels their season tickets if they are unhappy, said Michael Gilbert, Sabres vice president of public and community relations. “They cancel because they died or moved away,” he said.
Business is up in some nontraditional hockey towns as well, including Dallas, where the Stars are operating under new ownership. Asked to characterize the Stars’ ticket-sales efforts, new team President Jim Lites said, “Pretty good. This is our first summer with a team that has missed the playoffs four years in a row … and we were two years in bankruptcy.” The Stars, Lites said, were tracking about 5 percent to 10 percent ahead of last year with about 6,000 season tickets sold.
As for any impact of the labor situation on sales, Lites said, “It’s an issue that gets discussed, but I don’t think it’s changing people’s buying attitudes.”
Ed Horne, who was formerly president of NHL Enterprises but left the league in 2009, said he was not surprised that season-ticket sales around the league were unaffected by the uncertain labor situation.
“I don’t think the potential for a work stoppage has reached the consciousness of the hockey fans,” said Horne, now COO of Madison Avenue Sports and Entertainment. “I think the fans believe that things that needed to be fixed were fixed the last time and they can’t envision a situation where they don’t have hockey again. As I think back to 2004, there was a lot of noise and a lot of chatter years before the agreement expired. This time, there is little noise from either side, which I think is smarter.”
Staff writer Christopher Botta contributed to this report.