Sens give off a bad impression

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

The workers were down at the Corel Centre yesterday, one putting a new coat of paint on the door to the coaches' offices, a couple of others putting down some new floor covering in the gym.

Members of the Senators' brass were kind of doing the same thing a few steps away in the arena bowl yesterday as they unveiled the club's incentives to try and bring back disgruntled fans after the lockout.

The Senators offered up what amounts to a coat of paint and some new carpet --not a major renovation -- when it came to ticket prices for the upcoming season.

For Senators fans whose biggest complaint before the lockout was the cost of going to an NHL game, little has changed.

For sure, sound bites of some tickets slashed 33% and a 5% rebate sound good. But, like a gifted impersonator, it might sound good, but not be the real deal.

The Senators are offering their season-ticket holders a 5% rebate on season tickets for this season and a two-year season-ticket price freeze. So, if I read that right, after next season you will probably be paying more for a season ticket than you did before the lockout, unless you shift to one of the 1,550 lower-bowl seats that have been discounted. After a year without hockey, you might be wondering where's the justice?

That shouldn't come as a shock to any fans who were paying attention. While the billionaire owners and millionaire players dickered for almost a year over how to divide up the game's revenues (read fans' ticket money), there was never a mention of addressing the No. 1 complaint I hear from fans about the NHL game: The cost to get in the door.

Fans should have been ready for this.

The owners got their salary cap and their "cost certainty" for at least the next four years.

There is no such certainty for fans.

Team payroll budgets have been cut in half in some cases, but fans should not have expected the cost of going to games to be reduced.

That simply wasn't going to happen. The lockout was never about giving fans a break on ticket prices. The owners need your money. With their television revenue non-existent and many corporations probably not coming back, the owners can't afford to cut ticket prices by much.

For sure, the Senators have made some serious cuts to some tickets at the Corel Centre. Some seats in the lower bowl have been carved by up to 33% (sections 104 and 118, rows B-H have been reduced from $102.56 to $68.21, taxes and additional fees apply.)

But you could argue the cut in prices in the lower bowl is not so much an attempt to win back fans after the lockout as a reaction to the fact many of those seats were going unsold before the lockout. If you went to games in the 2003-04 season, you'll remember there were plenty of unfilled seats in the lower bowl for many games.

They were overpriced from the start and this relaunch provides a good opportunity to adjust their price point.

Single-game tickets in the 300 level, where most non-corporate types have to sit, have been reduced by an average of 5%, which is a step in the right direction.

DESERVE SOME CREDIT

To their credit, the Senators continue to be aggressive in making some tickets very affordable for fans with limited entertainment budgets, but they did that before the lockout, too.

You can still get a reasonably priced ticket (by NHL standards) if you pick your spots.

Tickets in the Coca-Cola Zone (the top rows of sections 314-316) have been rolled back to $12.82 (plus taxes), a 28% reduction, a great deal if you can get your hands on a couple of the 500 that are available for each game.

The Senators will still have season-ticket packages starting as low as $20.30 (plus taxes) per ticket, said Senators president Roy Mlakar. They're in the top rows of the Molson Canadian Zone in sections 325, 326 and 327 and are based on buying a half-season ticket.

There will also be three "Welcome Back" games early in the season for which ticket prices will be cut by 50% (that's probably what some fans -- even if it is unrealistic over the long term -- had in mind).

The Senators will also offer things like autographed replica sweaters for season-ticket holders and free tickets for what will probably turn out to be low-demand games.

All nice perks, but it will be interesting to see how far those things go toward replenishing the Senators' fan base after a year of bitterness on all fronts.

How far will fresh paint and some new carpet go?


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