How Soon They Forget

May 15, 2007

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Emperor Sawyer directs his young apprentice to do away with all partial season ticket holders

Flash back to April of 2004.

The Penguins had just finished a dismal 27-48-8-4 season that saw them finish with 58 points, the lowest total in the league.

Defensemen Dick Tarnstrom led the team in scoring with 52 points.

A long-awaited work stoppage was on the horizon for a league desperate for cost certainty.

The Penguins were a team that couldn't compete in the financial atmosphere the league was in at that time. Since 2001, they had operated under the radar, keeping their payroll on the low end of the spectrum.

The Penguins didn't make an attempt to be competitive that season simply because they couldn't afford to. Their free agent "splurge" that season was Kelly Buchberger who if nothing was entertaining in how often he had his senses beaten out of him anytime he dropped the gloves.

With apologies to Lasse Pirjeta, the only marketable star the Penguins had to offer to the ticket-buying public was an aging and hobbled Mario Lemieux who only played 10 games that season.

A 16-year-old Sidney Crosby was someone only hardcore hockey fans in this city were familiar with.

The result:

11,877

That was the average attendance at the Igloo that season.

Tickets weren't a hot item to say the least. We ourselves went to several games via the Student Rush program despite not even being college students. Normally you are required to show a valid college ID to buy a ticket following a lengthy wait in line. During that season, we literally would show up 15 minutes before a game, went to the box office window without an ID and routinely get C level seats for $20. One time, we had a scalper chase us down in a parking lot and sell us luxury suite tickets for $15.

The Penguins responded by lowering ticket prices around the board. EN and friends responded by buying a partial season ticket plan for the first time in our lives in section D-6. The Penguins responded with an awful 22-46-14 season.

This past season we moved up to C-6 and were rewarded with a brilliant 47-24-14 campaign.

Next season will be another story. Fearing we would lose our seats in C-6 unless we upgrade our package to the full-season variety, EN and friends have decided to move back to D-7 for a full season. We also feared not being able to secure seats in the new arena without a full-season plan.

That's our story about being an unloved partial season ticket holder. Shelly Anderson highlighted a few others in our boat today.

Like we've said before in regards to increased ticket prices, what the Penguins are doing in regards to partial season ticket holders is understandable. It's a business. They have a product that is in demand and they're trying to make money. That's the goal of all businesses.

But it stinks. Especially considering the difficulty the team had selling tickets two seasons ago.

We can't help but think that a lot of that goodwill the Penguins built up with young fans last season, particularly those who took advantage of the Student Rush program, has been sacrificed in the name of the almighty dollar. Part of the buzz about the Penguins last season was the connection young fans felt with this team and the energy that was in the arena. These were the same fans that helped the team sell out 30 games last season and endlessly campaigned for a new arena for several years.

Will that passion be there next season? Will that energy be flowing in the building when Pitt students who spent five hours in January shivering on a curb in their Marc-Andre Fleury jersey are replaced by CEO's from Fox Chapel wearing ascots that show up 10 minutes late and leave 10 minutes early and click away on their BlackBerry's during the game?

Pardon our stereotyping, but we have our doubts.

If you're a partial season ticket holder in limbo, hit us up with your story. srorabaugh@post-gazette.com

EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS

The Senators win a boring 1-0 game against the Sabres last night and are on the verge of going to their first Stanley Cup final. Ottawa leads the series, 3-0.

The day before the primary elections, Mayor Ravenstahl became a Senator in order to pay up on a bet.

Ducks forward Chris Kunitz will miss likely miss the remainder of the playoffs with a hand injury.

The Flyers might want to sign Mike York's wife.

In case York's wife isn't available, the Flyers resigned tough guy Ben Eager.

Noted Ratt enthusiast John Buccigross says Predators free agent forward Paul Kariya would be a perfect fit with Pittsburgh.



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