NHL ticket sales plummet on resale sites as a lockout approaches

Data from SeatGeek shows that consumers might be hesitant to purchase NHL tickets amid labour uncertainty.

Matt Lundy 0
CB_nhlseats

(Photo: Chris Young/CP)

National Hockey League ticket sales have plummeted on the secondary market as the league approaches another lockout, according to data compiled by SeatGeek for CanadianBusiness.com.

Ticket sales for the upcoming NHL season have decreased by roughly 72% on the resale market compared with last season, based on estimates from SeatGeek, a ticket search engine that compiles data from more than 100 resale sites.

To find this conclusion, SeatGeek looked at the number of NHL tickets that changed hands on secondary markets for all games in the 2011-12 season, then isolated which tickets were purchased on Sept. 12, 2011 or earlier. Afterwards, they overlaid those volume numbers against the number of tickets sold for this season’s games, based on transactions made up until Sept. 12, 2012.

For last season’s NHL games, about 93,500 tickets changed hands on resale sites by the Sept. 12 cut-off date. This year, SeatGeek estimates that only 26,000 NHL tickets have been sold across the entire secondary market.

“I think that the market’s really come to a standstill,” says Will Flaherty, SeatGeek’s director of communications.

Flaherty noted by email that every team but the San Jose Sharks has seen “less secondary market activity” during this off-season compared with last year’s.

What’s noteworthy is that the NHL’s resale slump comes at a time when resale sites are booming.

In recent years, the secondary ticket market has grown substantially and become an attractive option for consumers, particularly sports fans. One source told The New York Times in January 2011 that the industry was worth $3 billion a year. Current estimates peg the industry’s value between $6 billion and $10 billion, says Flaherty.

Of course, the secondary ticket market has existed for decades—albeit in a different form.

It was once “controlled and regulated by scalpers and brokers, who either gouged consumers on ‘hot’ tickets or withheld excess inventory for fear that selling low would distort pricing,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim last year. “Online ticketing, however, is a classic goods market, supply and demand distilled to its essence, still further proof that something is worth only what someone else is willing to pay for it.”

In some cases, that means sports fans are able to grab cheap, last-minute tickets from resale sites like StubHub. Last year, tickets to see a number of the NBA’s bottom-dwellers were being sold for comically low prices.

But home tickets for Canadian NHL teams are sold on the secondary market for substantially higher prices than primary listings, according to a post last year on The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog.

This year, it does seem that NHL fans are hesitant to sell and purchase tickets for a season that may never materialize. But for those who couldn’t resist, sites like StubHub and TicketsNow are offering full refunds on purchases made on cancelled NHL games.

*A version of this article also appeared on Sportsnet.ca

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