National Hockey League clubs knew there were disgruntled fans to be won back after announcing the end of the lockout earlier this month, and many are doing so with an apology and plenty of perks.
The Vancouver Canucks opened the season last Saturday with a post-game “jerseys off our back” giveaway to 24 fans at centre ice. A season ticket holder made the ceremonial puck drop and two fans had the chance to win a road trip with the Canucks on the team charter.
For the first three games of the season the team store is half price and hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, and soft drinks are discounted to $1. The Canucks also made training camp and pre-season practices open to the public.
The Calgary Flames offered half-price club seats for the first two home games and Montréal Canadiens fans received a free meal combo at the first home game. The Ottawa Senators gave away free parking on opening night.
Still, many fans aren’t impressed with the efforts of Canadian teams in seeking fan forgiveness, as some American teams are offering greater perks.
The Buffalo Sabres’ team store is 50 percent off for the entire season and the Carolina Hurricanes discounted home-opener tickets to half price. Colorado Avalanche season ticket holders received four free tickets to the first home game.
Florida and Tampa Bay significantly reduced season ticket packages to average $7 a game for the rest of the season, along with free parking and a jersey. Nashville is giving discounted tickets to public service workers and half price beer.
VIU student Stuart Kramer thinks NHL clubs, especially the Canucks, should be making a better effort in apologizing to fans.
“Vancouver should be doing way more to tell fans they’re sorry for making us wait until Jan. for a season,” Kramer says. “Tickets should be discounted all season long and there should be free parking and snacks too.”
Biology student Ashley Wong disagrees, saying the NHL and players do not need to apologize for seeking a new collective bargaining agreement.
“Professional sports are a business and union just like any other industry,” Wong says. “If fans don’t want to come back, they don’t have to. I don’t think teams need to say sorry for that.”
As of Jan. 20, the Canucks have sold out 408 consecutive home games dating back to 2002.