For many years now, I have been proud to call myself a season ticket holder of the Boston Bruins. How much do I like them? I flew across the country to attend Game 7 of the Stanley Cup in Vancouver in 2011 to watch them hoist the cup knowing there was a 50/50 chance of that outcome. I did not even question renewing my tickets and paying in advance during the players strike.
I also drove to New Jersey to watch Ray Bourque play in the Stanley Cup for Colorado. And, like most hockey guys out there, I am not afraid to admit I had a tears in my eyes when he hoisted it over his head.
Yesterday, I listened to Felger and Massarotti’s interview with Cam Neely when he talked about the increases in season ticket prices the Bruins have passed on to loyal fans for the 2014-2015 season. Cam is a class act and someone that any hockey fan respects. You could tell that he was uncomfortable addressing the question and that his PR and marketing folks did a good job giving him some soundbites. However, the fans took a major hit.
Most season ticket holders were expecting an increase, but not about a 20% increase totaling $1,320 more for the 2014-2015 season. In the past four years, my seats have gone up $30 per ticket/per game. Is that reasonable? The Jacobs Family argues that the price increase is because they are putting forth a great product. If the product is a winning team that is enjoyable to watch, that fans can relate to, and that play like a team, then I would absolutely agree. I really enjoy watching the team. However, let’s dissect the customer experience over the past couple of years to understand the season ticket holder experience.
Last year, the players and owners couldn’t agree on anything during the 4 month NHL lockout from September 15, 2012 – January 12, 2014. When they finally did, the rush was on to get in as many games as possible. The first 7 games of the year were the equivalent of pre-season games (aka – practice) due to the strike. Therefore, fans ended up buying more pre-season quality hockey tickets than ever because of the short window. Throughout the year, games were held every other night to make up for lost time making it tough on many fans to go.
This year, in the middle of the season, the marquee players (the product fans buy) went to play on Olympic hockey teams in Socchi. Some left early (sorry Zdeno) so fans attending the last game did not see the Bruins captain play. After Olympics ended, some players came back tired and missed games upon their return (Tuuka Rask). Some big name NHL players, leaders of their teams were hurt – Tavares out for rest of the season, Zetterberg hurt his back, etc..
Now fast forward to the first night back… The announcers said throughout the game every chance they could that is it is back to a mini-preseason for the players to lose the rust they had during their time off during the Olympic break. The Bruins lost their first game back and many fans argued that the outcome may have been different if players who were in Socchi (Tuuka) played. Who knows if that is true, but he is one of the elite goalies in the league and only two times all year the Bruins have let up five goals in a game until they played Buffalo who has the worst record in the NHL. Then, the next day season ticket prices go up 20% stating the product offered to fans is great.
Back to the interview, Cam also stated that because of the Olympics, the Bruins now have games pretty much every other night. Again, it makes it tough on season ticket holders and fans.
For those of you who know me personally, you know my passion for hockey. Perhaps I stand alone in this reaction. I think NHL players should not play in the Olympics. They have contracts with their teams and with the fans. Would love to hear what other season ticket holders think?
In the meantime, I have to go renew my season tickets reluctantly as a passionate fan of the game – for the product.