Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sticker Shock

Originally Posted February 20, 2010

Sticker shock. It exists in spectator sports, too!

Here’s a question: How much are you willing to pay for a hockey game? What if you’re in a market where ticket promotions for your local hockey franchise are as rare as the elusive great pair of seats at the same arena?

The Minnesota Wild is the answer to these questions. Our less-than-ten-year-old National Hockey League franchise has been the bane of my frustration lately. The problem is not the team, but the arena. The Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul would be a wonderful place if the seats in the upper deck didn’t feel so tight and on top of each other. I’d rather have vertigo than sit in the third tier. Otherwise, I would have to cough up money I truly do not have for a pair of great and comfortable seats in the lower bowl (or, maybe, the second level). I simply could not justify a two-ticket bill of $170.00 or more for a team that appears to be rebuilding under a new coach and general manager.

Thankfully, the NHL is on vacation in Vancouver as their best play for their respective native countries. What is left is a plethora of hockey options ranging from the minor leagues, junior leagues and collegiate conferences. In the Twin Cities, the best alternative to the Wild is one of the most prestigious collegiate hockey programs in the country: The University of Minnesota. I must point out, however, that the Golden Gophers held court in the state’s game longer than the first NHL franchise that graced this community: The Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars). Being a long-standing tradition, there is a price one pays for admission. At $35.00, I had to rethink whether I’d like to attend my first Gopher’s Men’s hockey game before I can justify affording it.

Yes, I live in the state of hockey. On some level, paying these admission prices could be justified. However, one must travel a bit before they can get their hockey fix without breaking the bank. Junior hockey leagues abound in Minnesota and bordering states (and provinces). You can drive five or so hours for a minor league game in the American Hockey League, just one step before the NHL.

Then, there’s the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, sporting four of The U’s primary rivals in the toughest conference in NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey. Schools, such as Bemidji State, Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and University of Minnesota-Duluth harvest some of the best USA talent in ice hockey – both men and women. It’s alumni boasts a “who’s who” of USA National Teams and professional hockey. Again, it’s not just The U that gets the glory in the collegiate hockey world.

As I was perusing as to which game to attend to punch my hockey ticket for the season, it basically came down to a game in Mankato – just south of The Cities. Normally, Minnesota State is a Division II school, but its membership in the WCHA elevates its hockey program to Division I. It’s an anomaly providing the NCAA a chance to promote its hockey programs, though they are smaller in scale than its football and basketball efforts. However, for the smaller schools – hockey is big business. The traditional hockey states will back the schools with Division I hockey as ferverently, if not more, than its other mainline collegiate athletic programs.

My decision was made on the basis of economics. For a good seat at a Minnesota State Men’s Hockey game inside the Verizon Wireless Center, you pay only $18.00. That’s the same as a good seat at an AHL game! Now, one would argue that I am wasting my money, if I take in consideration the cost of fuel, parking and other cash outlay for a trip down to Mankato compared to a night at Mariucci Arena and the Golden Gophers. Nonsense! I did the math and it actually comes out less for a date with the Mavericks than with the Gophers – parking included (BTW, parking at the Verizon Wireless Center is a mere $3.00)! If I took public transit to The U instead of driving, then I can see the difference tilting to the higher ticket price of Gopher Man’s Hockey. It’s a wash, really.

I can say with confidence and a major degree of success that I made the right decision to go to Mankato. The Verizon Wireless Center is a fun and comfortable place to watch hockey – or anything, really. It’s not a storied collegiate program at Minnesota State, but if you’re a fan of Division I hockey and love the WCHA, this is the place to go. Although, I’d rather see more skills than thuggery on the ice, the game was indeed entertaining. The 5-2 decision by the Mavericks certainly helped matters.

By virtue of the Olympics and the high price of watching top-notch ice hockey in the Twin Cities, my ticket has been punched for the winter. Maybe next winter I’ll be in a better economic state to enjoy the NHL (or another professional club out of town). Strangely as it continues to be, I still love this game on ice and the atmosphere the game is played in.

1 comment:


    redhatguy wrote on Facebook: I wonder if our hockey team down here is any good (Wichita Thunder). I haven’t been to any of their games, but I just checked the prices (because of your post) and they seem reasonable at $12-$29. They recently finished this new Arena, too, so it might be fun to check it out. By the way, your photo of the hockey game is great. What kind of camera do you use?