A 50-win season and run to the semifinals of the Western Conference this spring had Vancouver Canucks fans riding high, but at least some are getting bad news from the hockey club this month. That news is coming in the form of a notification that season tickets are not being renewed for at least some percentage of those who had memberships, as the club clears out accounts it allegedly believes are being resold too frequently.

“Our goal with season ticket memberships is to create a sense of community and allow fans to attend as many games as possible,” says the team in a statement provided to The Province regarding the policy, which it says involved research that determined if some fans were reselling tickets “too frequently” or other issues like multiple mailing addresses that it perceived as meaning the account was used for resale rather than actual personal use.

“Restricting ticket brokers from purchasing memberships and tickets will help create the best possible experience for our fans and protect the integrity of our season ticket members,” the team says.

It is unclear how many accounts have been impacted in the sweep, but Canucks fans have expressed their unhappiness with the decision by the team, which has won only three playoff series and not advanced beyond the conference semifinals in 13 seasons since it lost in the 2011 Stanley Cup final.

At least some believe the decision was driven by the club’s relationship with Ticketmaster and the growth of a ticket exchange group online where fans moved tickets to games they couldn’t attend at reasonable prices to avoid resale fees charged to both the buyer and seller by the team’s “official” marketplace, as well as get around price floors that Ticketmaster enforced on behalf of the team to keep secondary tickets from selling at lower prices than remaining unsold tickets from the team.

“A lot of season ticket holders aren’t able to attend every game,” says Dave Wright, who started the Canucks Ticket Exchange more than a decade ago but is now shutting it down due to the purge and knowing at least 100 season ticket members who have had their ticket accounts non-renewed. “That leaves them trying to sell the rest to help recoup some of their costs. Remember, these are seat packages in the thousands of dollars.”

“The Canucks organization has a deal with Ticketmaster, which I understand and they obviously want their cut,” Wright continued. “Unfortunately, the minimum amount that you’re able to sell tickets for is often high enough that the tickets would go unsold and, especially when the team wasn’t doing well or we were playing a team people didn’t care to see on a work night. What would happen then is basically the ticket holder would take a total loss on those games often in the hundreds of dollars.”

“Now that the team is doing well and ticket demand/prices are high again, the Canucks organization has made the decision to turn against those same season ticket members who kept them going through hard times by revoking season ticket members’ accounts for being ticket resellers on groups such as ours. The funny thing is, it didn’t seem to bother them when it was helping them move tickets that they themselves were having trouble moving.”

Such decisions by sports organizations are nothing new, though the majority of such actions to date have been performed by franchises based in the United States rather than Canada.

“This happens quite often in the States, and it’s appalling,” says Brian Hess of the Sports Fans Coalition. SFC is a member of the Ticket Buyer Bill of Rights coalition, which advocates for legislation that protects the consumer right to use, trade, give away, or resell tickets they’ve purchased without having to worry about teams later taking actions against them.

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“These mass purges of season ticket holders always end up hurting everyday people,” he continued.” Rarely do teams take into account the personal circumstances of fans. Maybe some people sold too many tickets because they were recovering from a serious illness and couldn’t risk going to games. Or, maybe a fan who has stood with the team through thick and thin lost a job and needed to sell a few tickets to make ends meet.”

“This is why it’s important lawmakers protect a fan’s right to transferability because it empowers fans to make the best decisions for themselves without fearing retribution from big businesses.”

The list of similar actions by franchises in recent years is significant – directly correlated with the switch to “mobile-only” ticketing systems that allow teams and ticketing vendors to track usage or transfer of tickets to fuel such decisions. Penn State went through a similar purge with its football team in 2022. The Denver Broncos did it in 2017, as did the Tampa Bay Buccanneers. The since-renamed Cleveland Indians did it in 2018. In some instances, the teams simply take the tickets back from those they decide are ticket brokers and use them to make a deal with a different ticket broker directly, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers did in 2018.

Many impacted by such purges are distressed by the accusation that they are “ticket brokers” and somehow deserving of seeing their tickets stripped.

“I know it’s a cash grab,” says Peter Wortman, who was a Canucks season ticket member for 33 years before he was informed earlier this month that his tickets wouldn’t be renewed because of how frequently he resold them. “We’re not stupid. They keep saying it’s about giving the average fan a better chance but they’re going to be charging more than we were.”