Jul 062010

From Canucks Sports and Entertainment:

Canucks Sports & Entertainment (Canucks) and General Motors of Canada Limited (General Motors) today announce a new sponsor partnership that will see General Motors focus its activities on in-arena activations to build stronger awareness for its new products and services. As part of this new partnership, the home of the Vancouver Canucks will no longer be known as General Motors Place.

The Canucks have scheduled a news conference at 2 PM to announce the new name.

More to follow.

Apr 292009

Personally speaking, I can think of only three good reasons for the Calgary Flames’ moving their AHL farm team to Abbotsford – three visits by the Manitoba Moose. But again, that’s just me.

Tracy and I go to Abbotsford almost every weekend – mommy-in-law lives there – and I’ve yet to talk to someone who is genuinely excited about the prospect of the Flames’ farm team moving there. Certainly, a few liked the idea and would support it, but I didn’t get the sense that they would (or could) get emotionally-invested in the product like they are with the Canucks right now.

The counterargument, of course, are the obvious economic benefits to the city. No offense to the locals, but there’s not a lot of ways you can spend your entertainment dollar in Abbotsford and I would think that going to an AHL game would rank up there with going to Blue Ridge, Lou’s Grill or the Towne Cinemas. If anything, it gives Abbotsford residents another option to spend their money in Abbotsford.

The question is, if they’re not emotionally-invested in the team – i.e. they don’t care – then how long will they continue to spend their money and support it?

Mar 092009

Right after the trade deadline, Bruce Constantineau (Vancouver Sun) wrote a piece about a raise in Canucks ticket prices for next season.

The Vancouver Canucks will hike season ticket prices by an average of two per cent next season — joining a small minority of NHL teams so far who have announced price increases during a global recession.

Canucks’ chief operating officer Victor de Bonis said prices on about 45 per cent of season tickets will be frozen, while increases on the remaining 55 per cent will range up to 3.3 per cent.

He said ticket-price increases in recent years have ranged from seven to nine per cent and believes the 2009/2010 price hike is the lowest since the team moved to GM Place in 1995.

Alanah (Canucks and Beyond) responded this morning.

Despite the fact the team is currently doing well, we could argue all day about the quality of the “product.” (i.e. I especially wonder how he would’ve argued his point in late January, when everyone in sight was writing his team off for the year?) Regardless, it’s not the most important point. That would be the fact that a team who already charges more than nearly every other team in the NHL, feels they can bump the bill up just a wee bit more to get more money out of fans’ pockets.

While ‘supply and demand’ might suggest they’re simply following good economic reasoning, in the real world they seem willfully ignorant of new realities.

One of the Canucks strongest assets is their sold-out season ticket base and particularly their waiting list of consumers waiting to buy those tickets. But how solid is that waiting list? The economy has changed drastically in the last few months, and for someone who put their name on that list two years ago, current circumstances are likely to be much different today. And are the Canucks so sure that their season ticket base can economically afford to keep investing in tickets at the current cost, much less with added expense?

I already received my renewal package for the 2009/2010 season, and from what I can see so far, I’m one of the “lucky” ones whose season ticket prices are frozen. They did ask for a deposit by next week – normally, this happens in June or July – so I have to pony up for next season’s tickets earlier than usual.

In order to soften this blow, the Canucks also changed their payment plan for playoff tickets. In the past, we had to pay for the first 1st and 2nd playoff rounds in March (even before they clinch a playoff spot) and for all 4 home games (home ice advantage or not). We then had to pay for the 3rd and 4th playoff rounds as soon they got past the 1st round. This season, we don’t have to pay for playoff tickets until the Canucks officially clinch a playoff spot or until they officially move on to the next round of playoffs.

You win some, you lose some.

But back to the price increases for next season.

Mr. de Bonis is wrong in saying that this is the lowest price hike since the team moved to GM Place; in fact, the team froze season ticket prices for 2 seasons after the 2004/2005 lockout. If they go through with this, it will now be the 3rd year since then that prices will increase. A couple of other things have also happened since.

1) In the upper bowl specifically, the upper end seats (Upper Bowl 5) and the upper corner seats (Upper Bowl 4) were combined and ticket buyers now pay the higher Upper Bowl 4 price even for Upper Bowl 5 seats.

2) The team has moved the boundaries between price levels. I sit in Upper Bowl 2-B seats, but just last season (or maybe 2 seasons ago), the same seats were considered Upper Bowl 3. (Upper Bowl 3 seats are cheaper.)

That said, I’ve renewed my seats anyway – and so have most season ticket holders – and therein lies the reason for the latest price hike.

As Alanah already said, it’s simple supply and demand. There are only 18,630 tickets available per game and 17,000 of those are taken up by season ticket and ice pak holders; there are another 4,000 paying $50/season to stay on the waiting list. That leaves 1,630 tickets to the rest of the 2.3 million Metro Vancouver residents (plus the 200,000-plus in the Fraser Valley). The prices may be high, but there are enough people to buy them. In fact, a quick check on Craigslist and Ebay tells me that people are willing to pay over and beyond what the Canucks actually charge.

Even after a year-long lockout and missing the playoffs in 2 of the last 3 years.

Whether or not this is good business practice remains to be seen. From a revenue standpoint, the Canucks stand to make more by charging 3% more per ticket and selling 1,000 tickets less – in other words, they may sell less tickets but the price increase more than makes up for it. From the fans’ point of view, it sucks but until people stop buying tickets – cue the Phoenix, Florida and Tampa Bay references – we’re simply at the market’s mercy. It doesn’t make it right or wrong. It just sucks.

Oct 242008

There’s a lot of chatter the last few days about the very cryptic message the Canucks have put up on their website.

Who else suffered rejection for an NHL franchise, but never quit? Who else turned a symbol of tradition into a passionate tradition copied all across sports? Who else survived the insults of the Flying “V”, the Plate of Spaghetti and the Skate going down? Who else turned a symbol of surrender into a passionate tradition copied all across sports?

October 25th, 2008 General Motors Place


There is, of course, speculation about what it means and Mike, Sean and Alanah have all weighed in already.

Because I’m on my own two-week Eastern road trip right now, I haven’t been too much in the loop and asked a friend and former co-worker at GM Place for some ideas on what it means. Unless my friend is taking advantage of my current state of ignorance, Alanah is spot on about the riddle being about the Canucks hockey fan. (And as a disclaimer, this entire post is based on the assumption that my friend isn’t pulling my leg.) Basically, the idea is to designate the 18,630 Canucks fans at every home game the team’s “7th man”. Think basketball’s 6th man and the Seattle Seahawks’ 12th man. The team obviously hopes that the 7th man – all 18,630 of them – will make GM Place a loud place and a tough place for any visiting team to play in.

So how exactly are the Canucks going to do this? I don’t know except I’m sure there’s some sort of tribute video involved. (The team does do good videos.) Prior to a playoff game a couple of years ago, the Canucks trotted out some old faces with hockey sticks and white towels and led the frantic crowd in waving the white towels. It’s possible that they do that again.

But if the Canucks want a louder GM Place, what should they actually do? Here are a couple of (somewhat serious, somewhat not) suggestions.

  • Win games.
  • Lower beer prices. Cheaper beer = more beer consumption = rowdier fans = louder fans. According to the 2008-2009 Team Marketing Fan Cost Index (link via Greg Wyshynski, Yahoo Sports), the Canucks rank in the top half of the league selling a 16 oz beer at US$6.10, or at the exchange rate used in the report, about CDN$7.00. The only thing is, I don’t remember beer even being that cheap at GM Place. Maybe it was in 1995 when it first opened, but certainly not now. I know I paid $7.75 the last time I bought beer at a game.
  • Lower prices overall. From the same report, the Canucks have the 7th highest cost to the fan, behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild. I realize this is a supply and demand thing; however, people need to feel the experience to be passionate about something. And they can’t experience Canucks hockey if they can’t afford it.

I do like the idea of honoring the fans, engaging them more and bringing them more into the Canucks experience and I’m looking forward to seeing what they have in store for them (providing I can find a sports bar here in Montreal that will show the game). But if the team wants fans to be more excited and more passionate, then it has to make sure that they don’t feel like they’re going on a date with a gold digger. I already mentioned the irony of the fan appreciation day game being available only on pay-per-view. If the Canucks are saluting their fans this Saturday, I hope they do it right.

Sep 162008

A quick hit on this one… I was just looking through the Vancouver Canucks schedule that was inserted in Sunday’s Vancouver Province. Did anyone else notice that the team moved Fan Appreciation Day from the last home game of the season to a mid-season January 4th game vs. the Dallas Stars? Did you also notice that that same Stars game is only available on pay-per-view?

How ironic.

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