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Looking for a ticket deal in the NHL? Look harder, prices continue to rise

Oct 26, 2010, 5:50 PM EDT

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Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins Getty Images

By now, we all understand that paying up to go see a game in just about any professional sport is going to cost us a lot of money. The NHL is no different than any other league, except for that pesky promise that was made after the 2004-2005 lockout to help make the game more affordable to fans that were left in the dark for a year without hockey. Just five years later, ticket prices are as high as they’ve ever been and they’re continuing to go up as Ben Klayman tells us.

The average price of an NHL ticket rose 4.4 per cent to $54.25, a year after the weak economy led the North American sports league to essentially freeze prices, according to an annual survey by a sports marketing firm.

While 11 of the NHL’s 30 teams cut or kept their average prices unchanged, the league average included increases of 24.2 per cent by the Washington Capitals and 18.4 per cent by defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, according to Team Marketing Report, which tracks ticket costs in the major North American sports leagues.

The recession last year forced sports leagues and teams to rethink prices as consumers cut spending on tickets as well as food and souvenirs at the games.

But the NHL’s increase echoed upward moves by other leagues as the effects of the recession have eased. Average ticket prices rose 1.5 per cent for Major League Baseball and 4.5 per cent for the National Football League this season, according to Team Marketing Report.

So… The recession is over then? All right, let’s go blow our money! Wait, fans are still having a hard time justifying already really high costs? Stunning. While the NHL has seen their revenues rise of late, they’re not even in the same stratosphere as Major League Baseball and the National Football League. Each of those leagues have teams that don’t pick up the slack with tickets (MLB had four teams play to less than 50% capacity this year; NFL has two teams below 80% capacity) but somehow they’re able to avoid the PR problem the NHL does when it comes to empty arenas. I guess better revenues can help cover that up and that’s a big reason why ticket prices are climbing amongst the more successful teams in the NHL.

But does that make it right? Simple economics says that it does thanks to supply and demand and as long as the demand is there for tickets the prices will keep going up until it slows down or ceases completely. That said, the league gets a bad rap for letting their own fans down with the false promises of lower prices and now see ticket prices rising in the cities where fans want to see the game the most. You can’t fault the teams for wanting to capitalize on popularity, but with the fans perpetually ending up on the receiving end of rising prices, you can’t help but feel like you’re getting screwed over. The price of success never stops going up.

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