Friday, January 30, 2009

Terry Frei Believes the NHL Runs like Roller Coaster Tycoon (Is That Game Still Popular?)

Yesterday Kix cereal was on sale for one day only, $1.88 a box. I picked up a box and was horrified - Honey Kix. Honey? I'm not a bear. If it's not Nut & Honey - and it isn't because Kellogg's stopped making it - then I don't want it on my cereal. This morning I woke up craving Kix and a shitty article written by Terry Frei.

It was a good morning.

NOTE: If I'm interrupting anything, Terry Frei writes a giant article about how the NHL needs the dictate ticket prices. I make jokes. Terry Frei and I both come out of it looking a little dumber. There, now go back to your FireJay Deathwatch.

Since the last time I wrote about NHL ticket prices, the North American economies have become so battered that if this were happening on the ice, the linesmen would have jumped in long ago.

More topical fighting joke: North American economies are more battered than Ray Emery's Russian trainers.

More than ever, I'm convinced that regardless of how the NHL attempts to spin and manipulate the numbers, the league botched the chance coming out of the lockout, and beyond, to address more aggressively the issue of affordability.

The NHL doesn't have the power to tell teams what to charge for a hockey game. Frankly speaking, I wouldn't want the NHL to dictate to different markets what the should charge for a hockey game. Different markets, different fans, different prices.

And as the crisis continues on both sides of the border, the NHL is going to pay for that lack of foresight, especially in the U.S. markets. It's going to pay for it in virtually all of those markets, both "troubled" and more traditionally supportive.

The NHL really should have seen this economic disaster coming back in the summer of 2005. What a cocksucker.

This is neither an expression of moral outrage nor a presumption that anyone should be able to tell NHL teams what to charge. But we repeatedly argue about what NHL teams should do, whether that's making a deal for a rental defenseman at the deadline or opining that a coach should be fired every time his team loses, so consider this among the realm of what I believe to be the right -- and pragmatic -- thing to do.

Maybe I have this article all wrong. It looks like we've hit a real turning point here. It isn't going to be about the NHL telling teams what to charge after all. Perhaps my bowl of Kix is the only salvation from a day of blocking sunlight from the basement windows and trying to make a Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew.

Attack ticket prices.

Do it showily.

Holler it from the rooftops.

Let me put down my Erlenmeyer. This article just went to shit again. Advertise lower ticket prices? Nobody has thought of that before. That Tampa deal is amazing.

Chip away at the NHL's reputation as a league that, because of its inordinate reliance on gate receipts, has to charge considerably more for a comparable seat than NBA franchises, and do something about the image of needing a mortgage broker to get involved in any purchase of season tickets.

Any purchase of season tickets? Let's see if I can get this without a mortgage broker. $20 ticket multiplied by 41 home games in a season multiplied by 2 so that you aren't sitting alone in the stands... FUCK! I was so close. Anybody know a good mortgage broker? Or maybe Passive Voice can lend a hand here with his automated number computing machine he called a "computer".

It's both the right and the smart thing to do in these times.

No. It isn't. The right and smart thing to do is not buy season tickets if you can't afford them. You must know full well that the cost of seats won't include things like parking, food, transportation, and hooker money. If you've gotten this far, though, you aren't looking for right or smart things to do.

Some of the effects of the economic malaise are already being felt and reflected in attendance figures, sponsorships and other areas. Yet otherwise, this is as if Kerry Fraser had his arm in the air. It's going to be a delayed penalty.

Usually when Kerry Fraser has his arm in the air, he is wrong. Nobody likes Kerry Fraser. It's not a good sign when you are a referee and people know your name. Rob Schick. Ed Hochuli. Don Denkinger. Tim Donaghy. Marie Reine Le Gougne. The last one is a stretch, sure. Point made, moving on.

"The first indications for us as to what next year will look like, and if you're looking for indicia as well, keep an eye on playoff ticket sales," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in Montreal this past weekend.

Makes sense, because season tickets could already have been paid for before the season started. Playoff tickets aren't on sale and will be bought in rough economic waters. And let's face it - playoff games aren't very rare.

Maybe. But it goes far beyond the issue of how markets react when their teams make the postseason. It's more about the invoices for next season, for the 41-game schedule that, depending on which conference is involved, might not even include an appearance by Alex Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin or Jarome Iginla or Pavel Datsyuk. And it's about picking out how many games to go to next season, if individual-game tickets are available.

Wow. Bettman's quote just took a long and confusing trip around Terry Frei. I'm pretty sure that Bettman used the words "first indicators," which to me says that you can use those figures, couple it with data from previous seasons with playoff attendance figures, and adjust ticket prices for the next season. And instead, we've been given a paragraph about next season not having star players, which is devoid of the name Sidney Crosby. And who the hell clamors to see Jerome Iginla anymore?

One size or pricing structure doesn't fit all in a league in which the Maple Leafs could charge twice as much and still sell out; the Rangers don't need to package four tickets, four pizzas and four soft drinks for one price; and not all teams need to put together various mini-plans of 14 or some games to get folks in the seats.

Uh... yeah. Who is proposing this idea? Oh shit. Not you, right?

Ten franchises are officially at 100 percent of capacity or above for home attendance. But they're exceptional, and the storm clouds are many, because even those in the 90-percent-plus realm have an alarming number of empty seats. Even if they're taking some at face value as "sold" seats -- and that's a risky assumption -- the fact is, this season's empty seats (and many more) represent next season's cuts.

10% empty doesn't sound so alarming. I would think that people that needed the money sold their season tickets off already to the friendly neighborhood ticket broker. Those empty seats that Terry sees in Denver is slow walk-up sales because the Avalanche are currently 9th in the conference.

Momentum is cyclical enough when it's based on team performance in a robust or at least "normal" economy. Everything is multiplied, perhaps even exponentially, in this kind of economy, when snowballs turn into avalanches going downhill.

I guess I could agree with this. Why pay money to watch a shitty team lose when you have a TV with basic cable and can watch the game from your basement?

The 42-inch HDTV and televised home games provide more excuses than ever in this age, and that's even before the recent economic shockwaves, including business cutbacks in everything from jobs to corporate ticket purchases to advertising and sponsorships, are factored in.

Well I wasn't really making excuses... it just seems that watching a game in HD is a nice alternative if you already have one. The word advertising belongs nowhere near this thought, as teams don't collect ad revenue, they collect sponsorship revenue.

Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito were coming off a season in which they were 1-2 for the Bruins in league scoring the last time a U.S. president imposed wage and price controls. I'm not necessarily saying Bettman should skip shaving one day, wiggle his jowls, give "V" signs with both hands and imitate Richard Nixon in dealing with NHL ticket prices.

But he should do something.

Like ban Terry Frei from writing about the NHL?

That "something" shouldn't be continuing to act as if what he and others advanced as one of the major rationalizations for the management hard-line position going into the lockout has ceased to be a major issue.

Again, the economy was much different in 2005. And there's a salary cap that can change when league revenues fall. What does any of this have to do with ticket prices?

That "something" shouldn't be repeatedly relying on the by-now-familiar spiel about how what he really said going into the lockout was that the inflationary spiral needed to be arrested -- and then citing statistics to argue that it has been.

Once again, that involves salary. Make your stupid ticket prices point so I can make fun of it.

What he did say heading into the lockout was that he believed a "majority" of NHL teams would lower prices if the league achieved an "economic opportunity" with what he had been alluding to for months as "cost-certainty."

But people will still pay to come see the games, so why lower prices? Greed controls ticket prices. Not the NHL.

The adjustments were minimal and certainly not trend-setting.

Sure could use some info on what they were so that I could check up on that. But why go into detail to prove you're right when you can be vague, speak in generalities, and then just hurry off in another direction.

He went through the familiar pitches again last weekend in Montreal, in response to my question about how Colorado had just drawn its smallest crowd ever during its 13 seasons in Denver; I also alluded to the fact that in addition to the slippage of the on-ice product, the "reason" I hear most often is the Avalanche have staggeringly high ticket prices, among the highest in the league. The same seat in a lower-bowl corner that costs $76 for Nuggets games is $100 for Avalanche games, and both teams are owned by Stan Kroenke.

That's because the Nuggets used to suck big burlap bag of dicks. Now they don't. And affluent people in Denver will spend cash on anything as long as it makes others jealous. What impresses me is that the Nuggets can really charge $76 for a ticket and have people buy it.

"Every team sets their own policy," Bettman said. "Every team really has to read its own market in making those judgments. Some teams have increased ticket prices, some teams have reduced ticket prices."

Betmann should have followed that quote up with: "How does it taste to gargle on my balls, Cottonelle? I'm going to call you Cottonelle from now on, Terry, because I just shit all over you." He chose not to, which is probably why eloquence is lost on a blogger like myself.


Good! Well, pack it in. Bettman just took Terry Frei to Economics 101 where you learn about break even points, supply and demand, and opportunity cost. This article ended pretty abruptly though, even for a Frei article...

There's more? But he just conceded that teams react according to the the individual clientele of their fan base.

Teams are separate businesses, although they're perfectly willing to gather under one huge umbrella -- not the kind you can buy for $3 from the street vendors outside the NHL's offices when the downpour begins -- and operate under something other than a completely free-market model (e.g., a salary cap and revenue sharing) when it's convenient.

The argument, as I understand it, is that he wants to eliminate the free market model. By having the NHL dictate ticket prices. That's also not a free market. That's like an anarchist clique at a high school. Frei suspended logic for one sentence there because it was convenient. What a doober.

"Average" ticket prices in many instances are a joke, thanks to many teams' declaring a huge number of lower-bowl tickets to be for "premium" seats and thus exempt from the calculations. That stipulation was designed to toss out luxury boxes and other seats that can lead to misleading numbers, because the "average" is supposed to create apples-to-apples comparisons about affordability for the average fan.

If many teams are doing it, then wouldn't the average be uniform league wide? I'm also missing where this ties into whatever argument he was making before Bettman wordfucked him a few paragraphs ago. The average ticket price is more of a barometer for how much your market is charging for against another. It has nothing to do with affordability for the average fan.

The "average" cited now in many cases would be akin to the U.S. Department of Labor excluding anyone making over $75,000 in the previous tax year in unemployment figures.

What? Just because the article is about dropping ticket prices in tough economic times doesn't excuse these horrific parallels being drawn.

What Bettman should do is make it clear to owners that he believes not only that the league failed to deliver on an implied promise to make this an important issue coming out of the lockout, but also that it makes good business sense -- both in the short and long run -- to react to the changing conditions.

You can't just change ticket prices in the middle of a fucking season. That's not how things work. You'd have to refund all the money that has ALREADY BEEN PAID for tickets, and lose even more money. If ticket prices need to be dropped, then a team will figure that out at the end of the year when they are out millions of dollars. The league should never take any action on individual teams ticket prices for a whole season. What needs to be addressed is how Terry Frei continues to make money writing shit like this. A non-hockey fan could point to this article and say "See? Ticket prices are too high and they aren't dropping. That's why I don't go!" Or maybe "What a horrific piece of journalism. I would rather sit at home and watch Ghost Whisperer in HD than go to a game of hockey, because I might run into the author and he would suck my soul out of my nasal cavities with his horrifically terrible writing style and arguments."



Venezuelan Beaver Cheese said...

Roller Coaster Tycoon was the bomb (is that expression still popular?). I loved waiting until it started to rain and then jacking up the price on umbrellas to $20. Those kids didn't know any better.

cs said...

I missed the comment-fest on the Greggg post Wednesday. With that being said, I will concede that the NBA playoffs are indeed gay. They are longer (by an excruciating 1.5 days I believe) and exponentially more popular than the NHL's playoffs, which all adds up to... GAY.