Fans of one of the NHL’s Original Six franchises got an unpleasant surprise as season ticket renewals came up for the 2017-18 season. The Montreal Canadiens informed season ticket holders they will now charge an extra $150 for paper tickets (per ticket), on top of the $2-10,000 the tickets themselves can run, depending on location. The team will offer customers a mobile-only entry option, with printed tickets coming with the additional price (plus tax). A letter from the team to season ticket holders cited security, ease of use, and environmental sustainability for the change, according to ESPN.com.
Fans have expressed their displeasure at the move, which came with no input from the paying customers, many of whom have been purchasing season passes for the venerable franchise for generations.
“”I’m a little disappointed in it … for me it’s quite a contrast from my first year,” Habs fan Will Shead, who shares his season tickets with his brother, said. Receiving the full allotment of season tickets via mail and opening it with his family was one of the pleasurable experiences of becoming a season ticket holder. “Last year we got this nice box of tickets for free. Now it’s like, ‘Oh no, you have to pay for what you got for free last year.’ ”
That disappointment was echoed in a piece in the Montreal Gazette bemoaning the team’s money grab at the expensive of their most valued customers. Brendan Kelly writes:
It’s great that the team wants to go paperless and it’s good for the environment. But don’t charge your most loyal supporters more because of this. Instead of charging more for printed tickets, the Canadiens should give a discount to those who opt for electronic tickets.
However, the Canadiens have gone for a crass cash grab. The team doesn’t make public how many season-ticket holders there are, but let’s assume it’s between the conservative estimate of 10,000 and the much more realistic estimate of 15,000. So if it’s 10,000, the owners are making an extra $1.725 million and if it’s 15,000, they are pocketing an added $2.587 million if all the season-ticket holders choose to have their tickets printed.
Beyond the team’s official reasoning for offering mobile-only as default and tacking on a whopping surcharge for paper tickets, is it makes it more difficult to transfer tickets. This makes life harder on ticket brokers, but also individuals like Shead, who have to pay for the paper tickets to be able to give friends and other family members access to games they can’t attend.
In ESPN’s article, Montreal’s actions appear somewhat unique in the NHL landscape. Toronto, another Original Six team, does not charge extra for physical tickets. The Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators similarly do not charge for non-mobile tickets.
“We’re taking a measured approach, watching the landscape and how it affects our fans,” said David Haggith, a spokesman for Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment. “Whatever we do about hard ticket stock will be after a conversation we’re having with our fans. We’ll make an informed decision.”