Philadelphia Flyers raise ticket prices for first time in three years, point to rising salary cap

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For the first time in three years, fans of the Philadelphia Flyers will need to fork over more money to buy season tickets to watch their team. Some might reasonably call it the price of winning while the Flyers front office points to the NHL’s rising salary cap as one of the primary reasons for the price increases.

Before you jump all over the Flyers organization for raising ticket prices, they deserve at least some credit for avoiding a hike for the last three years. A cynical type might point out that it’s sad to make such a comment, but let’s face it: consistent playoff teams in hockey-loving markets can sometimes name their prices.

Moving on, CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio has the lowdown on the changes. One focus is that the team will charge different prices based on seats with a better overall fan perception, meaning that the best seats will go for the highest prices. Before we delve into the team’s PR-spin on the price changes, here are the bottom-line facts of the Flyers’ ticket hikes, as reported by Panaccio.

The average season ticket will increase $6 per ticket or $260 overall in the full season package. The top seats currently at center ice cost a season ticket holder $79 (discounted). That price will increase to $95.

(snip)

The ticket increase amounts to an average 8-10 percent. However, the lower bowl is now restructured into six different price ranges. For instance, those seats behind the south net where the Flyers shoot twice a game will cost more than the seats at the north end where the team shoots once.

The seats directly in the middle of the ice will cost more than those near the corners.

The upper mezzanine will also change. There will be 15 different prices for all 15 rows. The farther back you are, the less you pay.

Current season ticket holders will be offered a chance to move to cheaper seats if they prefer.

Flyers executive Shawn Tilger leans on the league’s rising salary cap and an urge to earn revenues that “are more in line with other top teams” in the NHL to explain the price increase. (These quotes are also from Panaccio’s report.)

“We are rescaling the arena so that our revenues are more in line with other top teams in the National Hockey League,” said Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko. “This rescaling still allows us the opportunity to provide affordable pricing options for our fans.”

Tilger said the Flyers marketing and sales department researched this for eight months using statistics from the NHL, in-house and outside sales, secondary market research (StubHub, eBay etc.), plus input from a fans’ advisory board on what they felt were the best locations in the arena.

(snip)

Tilger said the price increase was spurred, in part, by the dramatic rise in the salary cap from $39 million in 2005-06 to nearly $60 million this season.

Tilger pointed out that ticket prices here have risen 5 percent in eight years, while the salary cap has increased 52 percent.

To add a little more perspective to the discussion, Travis Hughes of Broadstreet Hockey offers a calm rebuttal for some of Tilger’s points.

Hughes points out that the team’s revenues are already among the top in the NHL, citing a Forbes report that ranked the Flyers fourth in revenue with $121 million in 2010. He also soberly debates the merits of the cap-related argument.

Secondly, on Tilger’s comment that one of the big reasons for the jump in ticket pricing has to do with the salary cap. We all know that just isn’t true at all. If ticket prices are directly related to the salary cap, how come they didn’t go down dramatically in 2004 when team payroll dropped from $65 million to $42 million?

They only dropped about two dollars following the lockout, from an average of $57.06 to $54.81. By comparison, the average ticket price this season is $60.25, up from $55.93 in 2007-08. Again, increases in ticket prices are expected, especially as the team sits atop the Eastern Conference, but can’t they just tell us the real reason why prices are going up?

Ultimately, Hughes comes to the same conclusion many would get from reading between the lines: the Flyers simply want to make more money and they have every right to attempt to do that. Now it just comes down to whether or not their fans will accept the price changes with their wallets.

‘Dialed in’ Hurricanes could add more drama to playoff race

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At first glance, Carolina’s potential playoff push seems like a longshot.

The ‘Canes head into tonight’s action five points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and would need to leapfrog both the Bolts and Isles just to get there.

BUT!

The ‘Canes have a game in hand on both New York and Tampa Bay, and two on Boston. They also get to play six of their last nine at home, and are currently riding a terrific streak in which they’ve collected 17 of a possible 20 points (7-0-3 in their last 10).

“Guys are playing well, guys are dialed in,” head coach Bill Peters said, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “You’ve got to continue to keep pace. Around the league everyone seems to find a way to win, so you’ve got to keep pace and then hopefully somebody falters.”

Looking ahead, the next 48 hours will decide if this dream becomes a reality. Carolina begins a crucial back-to-back set against the Red Wings tonight, with both games to be played at PNC.

Tonight’s game, you may recall, is the makeup date for the Dec. 19 postponement due to unplayable ice.

As such, the ‘Canes now get a Red Wings team playing its third game in four nights, following Friday’s 2-1 OT loss to Tampa Bay and yesterday’s 3-2 OT win over Minnesota. Veteran Detroit d-man Niklas Kronwall isn’t expected to face Carolina, and the club is unsure if Darren Helm (lower body) can go.

The ‘Canes, meanwhile, are pretty healthy and firing away. Jeff Skinner has a five-game goalscoring streak, Elias Lindholm has points in each of his last 10 contests and Sebastian Aho in each of his last six. The club has also received terrific netminding from Eddie Lack, who has gone 5-1-1 in March with a .931 save percentage.

If they can get a result tonight, attention will be turned to the out-of-town scoreboard. The Isles are at home to the streaking Nashville Predators (6-1-0 in their last seven), and the Bolts host the Blackhawks, who are coming off an embarrassing 7-0 loss in Florida.

The Bruins aren’t back in action until Tuesday, when they host the Preds.

Report: Coyotes majority owner has a ‘potential new partner’

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The Arizona Coyotes’ ownership group may be getting a new member.

According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, Randy Frankel is a “potential new partner” for majority owner Andrew Barroway.

Frankel, who made his money on Wall Street, is already a part owner of MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays.

Shannon also reported that the Coyotes required a mid-season cash call, to the tune of $20 million, from their ownership group. Arizona has averaged just 13,020 fans at home games this season; hence, the revenue shortfall.

The Coyotes, of course, are trying to get a new arena built in the greater Phoenix area. So far, their efforts have been for naught.

Related: Arizona lawmaker suggests Coyotes pledge more money for new arena

Report: Rangers land Gophers standout Lettieri

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University of Minnesota senior Vinni Lettieri has agreed to join the Ranger organization, per the Star-Tribune.

Lettieri, 22, finished second on the club in goals this year, with 19, and third in scoring with 37 points in 38 games. The Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo reports Lettieri is joining New York’s AHL affiliate in Hartford, and that he and the Blueshirts are closing in on a two-year, entry-level contract.

Lettieri has some interesting bloodlines. His grandfather is former Minnesota North Stars player/head coach/GM Lou Nanne, and his father is former professional soccer netminder Tino Lettieri, who represented Canada at the 1986 World Cup.

The younger Lettieri went undrafted, and was a free agent following Minnesota’s NCAA championship loss to Notre Dame.

Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.