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Why are NHL teams letting TicketMaster steal their money?

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Being a season ticket holder in Atlanta has advantages and disadvantages. The worst part is that hockey only matters to a segment of the city and people are not buzzing about the team after a big win or a hot streak. The good news is that not only can you get tickets to most games, but those tickets are quite reasonable by NHL standards.

We will be heading to Pennsylvania for the holidays and plan to take in the Thrashers-Penguins game in Pittsburgh and then the Thrashers-Sabres game at Buffalo on the 30th.

Here in Atlanta we have season tickets. Back when we first signed up money was an issue so we bought in the cheapest section then available for season tickets. The season ticket per-game price back then was $12. Now several seasons later we are still only paying $17 per game for our seats. (This year Atlanta even made the cheapest seats available for season tickets, only $10 per game--can you believe it? An entire season for just $440!)

I had forgotten how much cheaper tickets are here until I went to Buffalo's site. The cheapest ticket in the upper reaches of the building sell for $45. That's a pretty steep "cheap ticket", but then again the Sabres are the top team in the Eastern Conference. So perhaps, they are simply charging what the market will bear.

Then I went to the Penguins site and that their cheapest tickets were $35. This is a team that has made the playoffs in how long? I guess Pittsburgh really is a sports town if they can move tickets at those prices on the promise of two young players, Crosby and Malkin.

Ah, but here's the rub, you don't actually get seats for $35 because Ticketmaster absolutely screws you over after you place your order. I chose the print-at-home option for ticket delivery which was advertised as only costing $2.50. But after you order your tickets they tack on a "convenience charge" and an "order processing fee" it all that adds a whooping $13.40 on top of the $35 for the actual ticket.

Now I want to point out that Buffalo uses a Ticketmaster alternative called This alternative ticket delivery system "only" tacked on $5.50 in charges for the exact same print-at-home delivery method.

I really want to rail about how ridiculous the Ticketmaster charges are, but rather waste my breath I'll simply point out that by using Ticketmaster NHL teams are leaving money on the table. What am I talking about? As a fan I spent $51 on a ticket for the Buffalo game and $48 on a ticket for the Pittsburgh game--very similar amounts. But notice that the Sabres are going to receive $45 of the $51 I spent, while the Penguins are going to receive just $35 of the $48 I spent. You tell me which team is getting the better deal here. (Unless Ticketmaster has some sort of kick-back program where the team's receive a cut of the convenience charge.)

The Penguins are stupid to keep using Ticketmaster when they could use the site that Buffalo uses. If the Penguins switched they could either a) lower the effective price of tickets purchased online by their fans and perhaps draw more fans; or b) raise their prices so that they get the $8 difference between what Ticketmaster charges and what charges to do the same thing.

So hats off to the Buffalo Sabres for making sure that the money their fans spend supports the NHL franchise and a wag of the finger to the rest of the teams using Ticketmaster. Also hats off to the Thrashers who make sure that a segment of their seats are quite affordable to the local fans. I'm sure prices will rise if we make the playoffs, but even then they will be cheaper than many other cities.