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NHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference battle benefits fans and brokers
The National Hockey League conference semifinals are an all-or-nothing exercise for casual fans and ticket brokers alike.
The Eastern Conference has everything fans and brokers could want with four well-known teams all located within driving distance of one another. The New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, and Philadelphia Flyers have combined to win nine Stanley Cups in 23 appearances in the Finals, with only the Capitals still waiting to hoist the Cup. The Capitals also have the best-known player left in the tournament in superstar left winger Alex Ovechkin.
The Rangers-Capitals and Devils-Flyers series are popular targets on the resale market with fans of all four teams driving up and down I-95 and the New Jersey Turnpike, respectively, to see their favorites in action. The regional matchups are particularly good news for the Wanamaker Ticket Office in Philadelphia, which stocks season tickets from the hometown Flyers, as well as the Rangers and Capitals.
"Right now it's a total win for us," Wanamaker General Manager Jake Conaway told TicketNews. "It's a gift to be season ticket holders for three out of the eight teams left in the playoffs."
A search of StubHub.com this morning, May 3, showed just 220 tickets available to tonight's Game Three of the Devils-Flyers series at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (the cheapest of which is a $115 seat in Balcony Ends 122) and 1,399 tickets remaining for Game Four of the Rangers-Capitals series at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. on Saturday, May 5 (the cheapest of which was a $118.95 seat in the Mezzanine End 424).
"The market's been steady, it's been very good," Conaway said.
The Western Conference semifinals, on the other hand, feature three teams in decidedly non-traditional hockey markets (the Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes, and Los Angeles Kings), and four teams (the St. Louis Blues being the other) that have combined for just four appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals and zero championships. The Blues-Kings and Predators-Coyotes series are cross-country affairs in which it will be difficult at best to convince fans to travel between the cities.
None of the four Western Conference semifinalists ranked among the top half in the NHL in average home capacity. The Blues (96.2 percent) were closest at No. 17 overall, followed by the Predators at No. 20 (95.2 percent), the Kings at No. 21 (94.7 percent), and the Coyotes at No. 30 and last (83.2 percent).
This morning's search of StubHub.com reveals 1,418 tickets available for tonight's Game Three of the Blues-Kings series at Los Angeles' Staples Center (the cheapest of which is a $68 seat in Upper End 304) and 1,546 tickets left for Game Four of the Coyotes-Predators series at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Friday, May 4 (the cheapest of which is a $65 seat in the Balcony Goal Zone 331).
"It's been really quiet on our end for anything in that conference," Conaway said. "I feel hockey is kind of like football: People, when they think of football, think of the east coast teams like the Eagles, the Giants and the Patriots. Not saying that there's not good teams on the west coast [in hockey], but when I think of the west coast, I think of hot weather."
The disparity in interest between each conference could continue to grow. In the West, the eighth-seeded Kings head home with a two games to none lead over the second-seeded Blues while the Coyotes lead the Predators, two games to one. In the East, the Rangers lead the Capitals, two games to one, after winning a classic three-overtime game Wednesday, May 2 while the Devils and Flyers are knotted at a game apiece entering tonight.
And no matter who wins the Eastern Conference semifinals, the conference finals will provide ticket brokers such as Wanamaker with another enticing local matchup. A Rangers-Flyers matchup in the conference finals would be an especially lucrative one. Only four teams in the NHL averaged beyond-capacity crowds at home, led by the Rangers at 102.4 percent and the Flyers at 101.4 percent.