Lower ticket prices no sure thing

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

The notion that fans will be "rewarded" with lower ticket prices for surviving the National Hockey League lockout remains in doubt.

While some teams have backed up commissioner Gary Bettman's pre-lockout prediction that a new deal would mean a break on tickets, teams such as the Montreal Canadiens and the perennially soldout Maple Leafs do not appear to be embracing the concept. The Canadiens said their prices are yet to be determined.

In a survey by The Toronto Sun, clubs such as the San Jose Sharks are dropping costs by around 10%, while other small market operations such as the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes, are non-committal until the new collective bargaining agreement is finished.

A team-by-team assessment by the Canadian Press revealed yesterday that most clubs will wait and see.

"We've had below-league-average ticket prices every year," Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford told the Raleigh News and Observer. "Until we know what the new system is and how many people we put back in the building in the first year, it's difficult to make a good decision on what, ultimately, ticket prices should be."

But executives such as Rutherford had earlier echoed Bettman in linking the need for a new deal to address ticket costs.

"With the right economic system," Bettman said at the 2004 NHL all-star game. "We can take the pressure off of ticket prices, and I believe with the right economic system, many, if not most of our teams, will actually lower ticket prices.

"I believe we owe it to our fans to have affordable ticket prices ... more than a majority of our teams would use the opportunity of economic stability to lower their ticket prices."

Speaking to the Sun last month, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. president Richard Peddie seemed lukewarm to the idea, at least until the nuts and bolts of the CBA were laid out.

"Yes, salaries are coming down," Peddie conceded. "But I don't know what we'll see in terms of a luxury tax, revenue sharing, the loss of ESPN (TV cash) ... we have a whole new set of economics. I will say that prices won't go up."

The Leafs' price range goes from $37 to around $200 per seat.


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