The Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning, two NHL teams that missed the playoffs last season, continued an annual rite of autumn by coming together for a preseason game in Winnipeg, Manitoba tonight. While most of the stars were out on the ice for the two teams, it was a different story on the other side of the glass where large areas of empty seats could be seen. Granted, preseason hockey rarely ever sells out a building, and a handful of the players in Winnipeg tonight will travel through the MTS Centre again as members of either the AHL Springfield Falcons or Norfolk Admirals, but I think it's pretty clear that Winnipeggers are tired of seeing second-rate teams come through their city. Paying ridiculous prices for tickets to watch a handful of stars and AHL players co-mingle in a meaningless game is the insult to the injury.
I can't say this enough: Winnipeg, in its current economic situation, is NOT an NHL city. Yet all over the arena tonight, fans could be heard saying that Winnipeg needs, deserves, and should have an NHL team.
11,644 people stopped by the MTS Centre and saw the Tampa Bay Lightning defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in overtime on a Martin St. Louis game-winning goal. And that's a great turn out for a preseason game in a neutral site.
However, there is a slight asterisk to this situation. There were a plethora of great seats that went empty tonight in the lower bowl. This can mostly be attributed to the ridiculous pricing between $79 and $119 per ticket.
That's right: PER TICKET.
For a preseason NHL game.
Between two teams that didn't make the playoffs last year.
And probably won't make the playoffs this year.
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME, NHL!
You want to know why Winnipeg isn't an NHL city? Because we couldn't fill the MTS Centre for an NHL preseason tilt between two crappy teams when the ticket prices were considerably lower than what they would be in the regular season. Just so you know, the price for the same $119 ticket in Winnipeg would run you a cost of $205 per ticket in Edmonton for a "copper" game, also known as a game versus a crappy opponent. If you wanted a "blue" game, or a game against one of the better NHL teams, you're paying $235 per ticket.
So for those parents who took their two kids to the MTS Centre tonight and sat behind the benches at $119 per ticket, your bill for tickets alone would jump from $476 in Winnipeg for a preseason game to $820 for a regular season "copper" game in Edmonton. Add in beverages and snacks and a couple of souvenirs, and you're looking at a $900 evening at Rexall Place in Edmonton.
I'd like to borrow a few lines from Clark W. Griswold, Chicago Blackhawks fan, in helping to explain my outrage about preseason ticket pricing.
Hey. If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I'd like Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Avenue of the Americas with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, fore-fleshing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, [bleep]less, hopeless, heartless, fatass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey [bleep] he is. Hallelujah. Holy [bleep]. Where's the Tylenol?I feel better after that rant.
Winnipeggers, give your heads a shake. You're better than the Tampa Bay Lightning and Edmonton Oilers. The Manitoba Moose could have given the Oilers a run for their money tonight. Next year, Winnipeg deserves two teams that will participate in this year's playoffs, preferably one that doesn't come from Alberta or Toronto.
Would it really be that hard to give us another Vancouver-St. Louis game like we saw from last season's playoffs? If you want the support of this Winnipegger, Mr. Bettman, you're going to have to do better than Tampa Bay-Edmonton in the preseason for $119.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!