Going to a hockey game isn’t a cheap endeavour in Canada. There are the parking fees, the $10 you’ll pay for a beer that’s slightly larger than a Dixie cup, and the goody bag of treats you’ll have to buy for little Billy.
Yet nearly every seat is filled every time a Canadian team plays on home ice. Passion drives the market in the Great White North, which is also the case in most of the northern states.
Other areas struggle mightily to fill seats, so gimmicks are a required ploy. In some cases it’s because the sun is shining brightly, and the choice between sitting on the beach or deck during a warm evening or going to the rink is an easy one. In others the struggle is a simple result of the poor quality of the on-ice product, and a prolonged failure to assemble a winning team.
No matter what the cause, an attendance problem often gets the creative juices flowing for the marketing nerds buried in flow charts and pie graphs. Here’s a look at where that creativity has taken a few teams.
Florida’s good time guarantee: The Panthers have about 4,000 empty spaces at the Bank Atlantic Center on a nightly basis, a problem worsened by the ugly avocado green colour of the seats. So, under some special celebratory circumstances, they are quite literally giving tickets away to the people of Florida.
Did you get married within the past month? You can treat your new bride to an exhilarating evening of Panthers hockey on the house. Then, maybe you’re at the game and some romantic sparks start flying, and nine months later a new little Panthers fan is born. Now you’re entitled to two more free tickets within a month of the child’s birth! But you’re not done yet.
Each year when that bundle of joy gets older, you get another free set on their birthday, and more when they graduate high school and college. Of course, the graduation and birthday tickets will technically be your child’s property, but you brought them into this world, giving you power that trumps everything.
A deal like this in Canada would cause a dramatic spike in the population, crippling the country’s economy.
The Miller Lite beer pack: Courtesy of the Anaheim Ducks, this beer-gut growing delight gives you two tickets, two hot dogs, and two Miller Lites. Packages start at $47, which is only slightly more than what some lots charge for parking alone in Toronto on game nights.
The Pepsi pack: Not a fan of pop that’s of the wobbly variety? Well head on over to Long Island. There will be plenty of people dressed as seats there, and you can bring two more friends. The fine people at the Nassau Coliseum are ready to offer you four tickets, four Nathan’s hot dogs (they’re like the Rolex of the hot dog universe), and four deep cups of Pepsi. The price? $99, which is the going rate on Stubhub for two tickets in the far reaches of the upper deck on March 15 when Montreal hosts Washington at the Bell Centre.
The Avalanche offer a similar package through Arby’s, dishing out four tickets, four roast beef sandwiches, four orders of curly fries, four Pepsis, and a $10 gift card to the team’s merchandise store.
Guys night out: Heading back to the land of oranges and alligators, the Lightning know how to reel in the boys for a night of inebriated debauchery. An offer available only on Tuesdays and Fridays presumably because the local alcohol suppliers need time to re-stock, this mind-blowing deal presents you with a bottomless plate of food, $3 beers, and a meet-and-greet session with the Lightning girls after the game. All of this can be yours for either $25 for terrace level seats, or $85 for club seats.
Tim Hortons Jacket Packs: Our cozy little Canadian doughout shop is all grown up and his infiltrated the northern American states. Perhaps realizing their monopoly on the parent rink rat demographic north of the border, Tim Hortons is trying to corner the puckhead market in Ohio by offering a tidy little $30 package on Friday nights.
For that price you’ll receive your ticket, a Tim Hortons mug commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Blue Jackets, a $10 food and beverage voucher, a 10-pack of Tim Bits, and a Blue Jackets hat.