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.

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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.

Report: Former NHL referee Devorski to stop by Jets camp

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There is heightened focus on penalties right now and the Winnipeg Jets have taken the step of bringing former NHL referee Paul Devorski to training camp for help.

The league is cracking down on slashes and faceoff infractions right now, although according to Sportsnet, Devorski’s influence at Jets camp will go beyond just those two calls.

From Sportsnet:

The retired NHL referee will be at training camp on Friday where he will officiate the team during battle drills to give Jets players a better sense of how to stay within the rules.

NHL teams reaching out to the league to consult on officiating is not new, but having a referee work on-ice with a team is a less common step.

Currently many NHL teams are consulting with the league over more hot-button issues like slashing and faceoff violations, but the Jets focus with Devorski will be on past issues.

Around the league, it will be interesting to see if there is an increase in the number of penalties called, especially early on, and if so, the possible impact that will have on the games once the regular season gets going next month.

Per Michael Traikos of the National Post, there had been 91 slashing penalties called through 19 exhibition games in which real-time statistics were kept prior to Wednesday’s slate of games.

“It definitely changes how you have to defend. Those reactionary slashes of the stick, taps to the hands, are so ingrained in a defenceman,” Eric Gryba told Sportsnet. “If they stay as rigid on the rules as they are right now… the whole makeup, landscape of the D-corps is going to change, from top to bottom. Everyone is going to have to be a better skater to defend.”

The new tweak on faceoffs has also garnered some critics. Like Brad MarchandHe isn’t a fan.

“The slashing [penalties] is one thing, but this face-off rule is an absolute joke. That’s how you ruin the game of hockey by putting that in there. They’re going to have to do something about that because we can’t play all year like that,” Marchand told CSNNE earlier this week.

“Basically you have to be a statue. You can’t move. It takes away from the center iceman. I think there was even a play [in the game I was watching] last night where a penalty was called on a 4-on-4 before play on the first penalty had even started because of a draw.”

While the Jets are seeking the knowledge of a seasoned official to help them stay out of the penalty box beyond slashing and faceoff violations, it seems the entire league is in for quite a learning experience over these next few weeks.

Canucks, Kings ‘put on a show’ during first NHL preseason game in China

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SHANGHAI (AP) A golden dragon was held aloft on poles by skaters. Kobe Bryant appeared on video. NHL mascots gave the crowd a primer on what this odd game is all about.

NHL preseason hockey made its debut in China – a 5-2 victory by the Los Angeles Kings over the Vancouver Canucks – in a step by the league to crack an immense market.

The fans in Shanghai got a fast and physical display Thursday – 17 power plays and 57 shots on goal, all met with loud cheers. Each hard check drew a collective “oooh” or “aaah.”

“Obviously, you wanted to put on a show for the fans here and they got to see some goals, too,” said Vancouver forward Sven Baertschi, who scored the Canucks’ first goal.

An announcer came onto the ice to explain the finer points of the game as Fin (Vancouver’s killer whale) and Bailey (Los Angeles’ lion) acted out infractions such as charging, crosschecking, tripping and hooking.

A golden Chinese dragon came out next, hoisted on poles by seven skaters. A group of Chinese kids in hockey uniforms joined the NHL players during China’s national anthem.

With Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the NHL is showcasing two preseason games in a country unfamiliar with hockey. The Kings and Canucks play their second game in Beijing on Saturday.

Even if the rules remain somewhat of a mystery, the crowd appreciated the speed and collisions.

“To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know the crowd, the noise, the atmosphere,” Los Angeles coach John Stevens said. “I think the whole thing for me is we’re here to grow the game. It’s my hope that the more they see it, the more people like it.”

Tanner Pearson scored twice for the Kings and Alec Martinez and Jeff Carter each had a goal and an assist. Jonathan Quick made 31 saves.

Team allegiances were hard to find in the crowd, the most demonstrative fans being rowdy Canadians waving their country’s flag.

Spectator Inge Zhang was more appropriately attired for an NBA game, wearing a Miami Heat jersey with pink letters. A media manager for the Shanghai Sharks basketball team, she was excited because she heard a certain NBA great might be there.

“So we came here actually for Kobe Bryant,” she said while her friend laughed. “But I love this sport, too.”

Bryant, in fact, did show, although in a video message to support his hometown Kings.

“I see more foreigners here tonight than Chinese, but I think there are still a lot of hockey fans in China,” Zhang added. “I think the NHL should take this opportunity to grow the sport here.”

That’s the plan now that the NHL has signed a contract to bring two preseason games to China for six of the next eight years.

“The effort here really is to build from the grassroots up, to try to grow the appreciation for the sport, the understanding of the sport,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said before the game. “We’ve certainly made the Chinese Ice Hockey Federation and the Chinese government aware that we’re willing to help any way we can as they gear up and prepare for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.”

But this is the first step in a long process.

“It’s great for China itself to see the NHL live and in person, see the speed of the game, how good the players are,” Vancouver coach Travis Green said. “But whenever you’re bringing hockey to a new country, it’s going to take time. I think it’s great the NHL is committed to doing that.”

Blackhawks release trio from professional tryouts

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The Chicago Blackhawks made some roster moves Thursday, releasing forwards Drew Miller and John Mitchell, and defenseman Mark Stuart from their professional tryouts.

All three players were added to the training camp roster at the beginning of last week, after Cody Franson was previously brought in to the Blackhawks camp on a PTO.

Chicago is now down to 54 players in camp.

Miller, 33, had spent the last eight seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, although he also spent seven games in the minors last season with their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.

Stuart, 33, spent the last six years on the Winnipeg Jets blue line. Mitchell, 32, had played the last five seasons with the Colorado Avalanche.

Blues name Larry Robinson as new senior consultant to hockey operations

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Larry Robinson has joined the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues made the announcement Thursday, revealing that Robinson has joined the organization as a senior consultant to hockey operations.

Based on the comments of Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, it sounds like Robinson will work closely at times with head coach Mike Yeo. It could also further help the development of an already impressive defenseman in Colton Parayko.

“Bringing someone like Larry in, I just think, helps our hockey operations from top to bottom,” said Armstrong, per the Blues website.

“His ability to talk to Mike Yeo about coaching — that’s one area that we don’t have on our staff is a former head coach. You can think you know what Mike’s going through but I don’t know what Mike’s going through. Larry does. So he’s going to be able to relate to him on a lot of the things that he’s going to go through.

“He’s coming in as a consultant. I can learn a lot from him, our assistant coaches can, Parayko can. There’s not an area of our hockey operations he can’t touch to make us a better group.”

Robinson was most recently the director of player development with the San Jose Sharks, however it was reported in May that he would not return to that organization for this season.