Sunday, September 6, 2009

WRT's This 'n' That (H/M)

A column of opinions, some facts and an occasional rant from the Wild Road Tripper (WRT)

Finally. It's September. Enough of this baseball crap. Time for hockey to begin.

The season where everyone thinks their team is a playoff contender (OK, we'll cut a bit of slack for fans of Atlanta, Colorado, NY Islanders, and the hapless Phoenix Coyotes. No hope there, folks.) If you are like I am -- waiting impatiently for NHL teams to start selling single-game tickets (teams must by Saturday, by NHL edict, except as below) this is the time where you start looking at everything involved with following your team. And they want you (and your money), also. The promotions are out there. Look at each teams' websites; how many put up a larger than normal size photo of a star player with some catch-phrase?

Anyhow, perusing the websites, there's some oddities out there:

Atlanta, where the Thrashers announced their TV schedule, and then...entirely left out Montreal! The Thrashers will not televise any of the four meetings between the Canadiens and Thrashers this season. (All four meetings will occur before Dec. 22). The Thrashers will also not televise either game at Ottawa this season.

Carolina, where the Hurricanes have taken a page from the sales textbooks of the two Alberta franchises, and will only sell tickets a few games at a time. (The 'Canes and the Nashville Predators also get to start selling tickets on Monday, Sept. 14, instead of the League-edicted Sept. 12th, so as to not conflict with college-football-nuts Southerners on a major Saturday in September.) The 'Canes also have 'advance sales' pricing for fans who buy tickets at least 7 full days in advance of games at RBC Center; savings by buying range from $5 to $50 per seat, depending on what locations you actually buy.

Chicago has a 'menu' of games for which they have the best selection of seats, some selection, or nearly gone. One of the games with the best selection is the Jan. 5 game vs. the Minnesota Wild at United Center.

Speaking of tickets, the New Jersey Devils have come up with a very, well, unique ticket promotion for the pre-Holiday season: the 'Hell's Bells' ticket plan, where you pay for five games and get two free (against Detroit and Philadelphia, no less!)

The five games you pay for aren't all that bad, either, as the Devils play Vancouver, Montreal, Carolina, Atlanta and Pittsburgh in December at 'the Rock'.

Which proves my old Road Tripper adage; the NHL does indeed, have 30 different ways of doing the same one thing.

Sell tickets.

Now, of course, we have to get there...

The NHL has found itself in the middle of an unfortunate trans-border pissing match, between the US Department of Transportation and the Canadian Ministry of Transport, over charter flights which cross the USA/Canada boundary, such as the ones that NHL teams do (the NHL is the only league which this would apply to, as it is the only league which has more than one team in each country.)

The dispute is that since players do, indeed, make multiple-stop trips solely within the USA, that team is in violation of the Open Skies Act, which allows Canadian crews flying Canadian-flag aircraft to make multiple stops within the USA as long as that group (or, team) stays together. Commercial flights of one country, on the other hand, cannot carry passengers solely within the other nation (e.g., Air Canada cannot carry passengers directly between New York and Chicago, nor could American Airlines carry passengers between Vancouver and Toronto).

The US Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) contends that once the group makes one stop in the USA that plane, and all its' occupants, must return to Canada. The ALPA demanded that team owners, injured players and trainers (who accompany injured players) not travel on these flights between two cities solely within the USA.

This primarily is aimed at Air Canada, whose charter division (marketed under the name 'Jetz') currently carries a number of NHL teams. These planes generally carry dedicated (to charter service) crews and their own mechanics, and do not use standard airport airline terminals. The upshot of all this is now the Canadian Transportation Agency is drafting new, stricter regulations which will primarily affect American teams, especially those teams in the Northwest Division (Colorado and Minnesota) who make multiple-stop long-haul trips each season to Western Canada. Most teams will have to now charter from as many as three different carriers, as opposed to the one which they were dealing with.

Wild fans have been asking for divisional realignment for years. Will this dispute turn out to be the catalyst? Or will cooler heads prevail, and sanity reign supreme?

Stay tuned...

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