With just four days to go until the Vancouver Canucks meet the Ottawa Senators in the city’s first-ever Heritage Classic, a local ticket broker says there are more people trying to sell seats to the event than buy them.
“It’s bad,” Vancouver Ticket Service manager Kingsley Bailey told CTV News Wednesday. “We are inundated with more people who want to sell us tickets than we have customers that want to buy.”
According to Bailey, while many people have snapped up high-end and low-end seats for the event, which happens this Sunday at BC Place, sales have mostly been slow.
“The tickets in the middle of the chain are not doing that well at all,” he said. Bailey suggested the low demand is because the sightlines in BC Place aren’t optimal for a hockey game being played on a surface much smaller than the football field it’s taking place on.
“I think the NHL dropped the ball on this,” he said.” They could’ve gone a lot more reasonable in price and filled the place, and especially in the seats where the sightlines aren’t that good.”
Tickets for the event range from $80 to as much as $400. Some see it as a missed opportunity to lure those who can’t afford regular Canucks games at Rogers Arena, which can cost hundreds of dollars for a family to attend.
But BC Place has nearly three times the capacity as Rogers Arena, leaving many wondering why the league didn’t make tickets more affordable in order to fill the stadium – instead of facing large swaths of empty seats.
“Those seats they should have really discounted,” Bailey said. “It’s about the money. They did have a lockout; they’re trying to recoup as much as they can as quickly as they can.”
A spokesman for the league said pricing is simply based on market conditions. "It's not much different than a lot of the other buildings we've been in," said Don Renzulli, executive vice-president of events for the NHL. "None of these games are inexpensive to put on. You can look at everything that's going on behind us and what it is, it's a very expensive proposition. We try to price them similar to what they have next door."
Renzulli said he was "very confident" that BC Place would be full of fans Sunday and that about 90 per cent of tickets had been sold so far. That number doesn't account for tickets being resold.
Tickets for up to eight seats in a single row were still available as of Wednesday, and even more could be purchased in blocks in the same section.
“A lot of people are really waiting until the last second to make a purchase, and if I were them, I’d wait too because the prices could bottom out and get even lower than they are now,” Bailey said.
The spectacle of outdoor hockey has grown in popularity since the NHL created the Winter Classic – an annual New Years Day matchup between two teams that usually have some sort of historic or existing rivalry.
That’s something Vancouver and Ottawa don’t have much of. The last time they met in the playoffs was nearly a century ago, when the then-Vancouver Millionaires beat the Senators to clinch Lord Stanley’s Cup.
That, combined with the fact that each team currently sits in 10th in their respective conferences, could be partly to blame for the slow ticket sales to Sunday’s game.
Vancouver’s Heritage Classic is one of six outdoor games taking place around the NHL this season.