With the new National Hockey League (NHL) season beginning tomorrow, October 7, the league is looking for solid ticket sales to kick off the action. And they may just get them.
The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, though faced with rebuilding a team following offseason player losses due to the salary cap, have the League’s best season ticket renewal rate at 99.8 percent, according to Sports Business Journal. And, both the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings are renewing at rates over 90 percent, well above the league average of 87.8 percent.
Things are looking up on the secondary market as well. Joellen Ferrer, corporate communications manager for StubHub, told TicketNews that the NHL’s popularity on the ticket marketplace Web site continues to grow.
“NHL tickets have grown in popularity on the site year after year, indicative of the heightened demand and anticipation for the start of the season. Naturally, we’re seeing excitement and strong sales for our champion Blackhawks, runner-up [Philadelphia] Flyers, as well as with powerhouses the [Boston] Bruins, [Pittsburgh] Penguins, [Washington] Capitals, and [New York] Rangers.”
Those teams’ home openers are particularly popular on the resale site, and StubHub expects strong sales for NHL tickets throughout the season.
Due to the still recovering economy, all four major team sports, and NASCAR, have had to work hard to keep ticket sales at or close to previous years, but the NHL, which is still shaking off the effects of the league lockout several seasons ago, is potentially the most vulnerable. The league does not have as robust a television presence as the other sports, so marketing opportunities are more limited. However, in addition to the big-market Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup, the league is also hoping to build on the momentum from the thrilling Vancouver Olympics, where the U.S. lost to Canada for the gold medal, during which a lot of NHL stars were showcased.
To further help boost interest, in recent years, the league has taken a proactive approach with the secondary ticket market, and signing a resale deal with Ticketmaster’s TicketExchange.
Bob Bernstein, CEO of eSeats.com, told TicketNews that he sees his top sellers in the Northeast Division, including the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals, and the Boston Bruins. “After that, we’ve been getting steady requests for Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and our home team, the Phoenix Coyotes.”
Bernstein adds that a weak economy has led fans to request more center ice, upper level tickets, compared to other lower level, premium seats. “I attribute this to fans still seeking out good locations but reluctant to spend over $100 to sit closer to the ice.”
Nima Moayedi, Chief Operating Officer of Razorgator, is seeing similar trends at the resale site. Moayedi identifies the Rangers and Blackhawks as hot sellers, the Rangers due to their large market and the Blackhawks due to their Stanley Cup trophy.
But another strong seller, the Atlanta Thrashers, was a bit of a shock. “[They] made a huge jump,” Moayedi said, “which is a surprise given they weren’t a playoff team last season. But they did pick up four players from the Chicago Blackhawks, who won the Cup last year.”
Solid sales may not be occurring everywhere, however, and Moayedi has some findings which contradict other sellers at this point in the season. “Overall, it looks like less demand this year over the same period last year, with Boston, Montreal [Canadiens]and Edmonton [Oilers] seeing the largest declines early on.”