Leafs fan protests ticket prices

LANCE HORNBY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:02 PM ET

BUFFALO — A computer savvy Leafs fan is trying to rally national web support to have the 28th-place hockey team reduce ticket and concession prices that “reflect the value of the product on the ice”.

Daniel Ruscigno launched BeFairToTheFans.com this week, pressing the economic argument that a company such as Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd., which makes big money (valued at $470 million US last year) and survived the recession should repay the loyalty of “the most dedicated fans in all of professional sports”, by rolling back ticket prices 20% for the 2010-11 season.

“So far response has been better than expected,” Ruscigno said Friday. “Before I knew it, we had 1,600 people join and I haven’t checked the update (Friday).

“I come from a huge family of Leaf fans in Etobicoke (the 24-year-old just moved to Vancouver to join an internet start-up company, Mingleverse.com).

“But there was a snowball effect with me leading to this, given they haven’t made the playoffs for (four) years, the bad start they had this season and the fact they raised ticket prices this year. For a student, that’s a lot of money.”

Team Marketing report lists the Leafs with a league-high ticket average of $114.10 US and Ruscigno claims the same publication pegs Toronto with the highest concession and merchandising prices in the league.

In addition to reducing the ticket prices, Ruscigno is lobbying for a 10% drop in concession costs.

Though Ruscigno has yet to hear directly from MLSEL hierarchy, its executive vice-president and COO Tom Anselmi told the Toronto Sun there was no way to sugar coat the team’s poor record since the lockout, which followed modest success between 1999-2004 when it enjoyed the fourth most playoff wins in the NHL.

But Anselmi did dispute many of the figures related to MLSEL’s profit margins listed in the site’s mission statement.

He wouldn’t supply his own data, but said: “since 2003, during this period of poorer team performance post lockout, we have only had net price escalation of 1%. Very few businesses would be able to make the same claim.

"There is no doubt Leafs fans are the most loyal and dedicated in pro sports. We see that every day and never take it for granted. We make our pricing decisions based on the Toronto market, the most expensive city in Canada and second-most expensive in the NHL. Our costs are significantly higher than most other teams in the NHL. But I can assure you, we consider any pricing decision very carefully.”

Ruscigno had pointed out that New York, Chicago and Boston are all big cities with NHL teams with lower ticket prices than the Leafs.

“We ask a lot of our fans and have the highest ticket prices in the NHL,” Anselmi added. “We are afforded that luxury because of this great hockey market and deep and loyal fan base.

“And because of that, we need to deliver a great product and great service. I can also assure you our ownership and management is committed to winning hockey. Brian (Burke) and his team are focused on rebuilding the team into a Cup contender.”


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