Sunday, August 18, 2013

PRED-atory pricing in Music City

Nashville Predators, taking advantage of Chicago Blackhawks' popularity, forces Hawks fans to buy tickets to games they'll never see

Chicago Blackhawks fans will feel a little bit like fans of da Bears in Nashville this season. As in, ripped off to see their team on the road.

The Nashville Predators have instituted a 'pairing' system for games against the Blackhawks this coming season, in order to sell a few more tickets to games OTHER than against Chicago, whose easy access for Hawks' fans, who cannot afford the sky-high prices for Blackhawks games at the United Center, makes road tripping to Music City USA an irresistable target.

The Predators anounced that they were pairing the Hawks' games with games against less-popular teams of their choosing (read: Edmonton, Calgary and Colorado, teams which traditionally don't draw flies in Nashville). Now, if you don't want to go to that paired game, there are Preds-approved ways to get rid of those unwanted tickets (and take a financial bath in the process, IMO).

You can give them to charity (supposedly, you receive something you can take to your tax advisor), put them on the Preds' Ticket Exchange (so the Preds can re-sell them and make the profit, not you) or you can give them away to a Preds-approved military group of your choice.

That is, if you can even GET tickets.

See, the Preds are going to a staggered system to sell single-game tickets online; should your ZIP code (which they will ask for) not start with 36, 37 or 38 (the three assigned to Tennessee), you will be SOL for nearly a week after they go on sale in Nashville, at Bridgestone Arena.

Mind you, the Preds are not alone in their pricing scheme for Blackhawks fans. NFL teams do this as a normal course of their business (the Vikings do this to Green Bay and Chicago annually; but unlike the NFL, where each divisional team plays each other once a season home and away, the Hawks and Preds play each other 5 times this season alone.)

But for a team like Nashville to do this? Yeah, I suppose I can understand that you try to spread out the 'pain' of having thousands of Chicago fans in your arena, but they will come regardless: ask Winnipeg Jets fans, who have made the band-box-sized MTS Centre the toughest ticket in the NHL to get into. There were still thousands of Habs, Leafs, and Rangers fans in the stands when they showed up in the 'Peg. There will be thousands of Hawks fans in Winnipeg this November, too, when the Hawks finally play their first-ever regular-season game in Manitoba.

And, don't tell that to the unabashed kings of NHL road tripping, the Detroit Red Wings, whose sheer numbers of fans seeing them on the road confirm that there is no one left in Detroit to see them play in the regular season. (OK, I kid.) But the fact is that most teams put the Red Wings in their 'Premium' category for tickets (i.e., jack the prices up), due to the Wings' proven ability to draw away from Joe Louis Arena.

So, here's hoping all those 'paired' tickets get used. By fans of THOSE other teams. Because, Nashville Predators, you've done nothing but bring it on yourselves.