Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has devised ways to keep Pittsburghers away from playoff games involving the Penguins at the Verizon Center by preventing customers from Pittsburgh area codes and ZIP codes from purchasing tickets.
The Carolina Hurricanes have no such policy, and the head of Carolina's ticket sales expects a contingent of Penguins fans for Games 3 and 4 in Raleigh, N.C., when the Eastern Conference final series shifts from Pittsburgh over the weekend.
"We do expect a large number of Penguins fans," said Kyle Prairie, the director of ticket sales for the Hurricanes. "But primarily, those are transplanted Pittsburghers who live here. Every time we play Pittsburgh, we have a decent number of people with Pittsburgh shirts on."
Prairie and the Hurricanes are not worried about Penguins fans dominating the RBC Center because the fans in the Raleigh area quickly snatched up the remaining playoff tickets when they went on sale Friday. With the Hurricanes attempting to reach the Stanley Cup final for the third time in the past seven seasons, the Raleigh area is one of the few places in the South where hockey has caught on. Game 3 Saturday and Game 4 Tuesday are sold out. A small number of tickets are available for a potential Game 6 May 31.
Ticketmaster provides reports that break down how many tickets are purchased and from which locality. Prairie said only 150 accounts for the three games scheduled in Raleigh originated in the Pittsburgh area. The average ticket account is three people, so he estimated that about 450-500 tickets were purchased by people from Pittsburgh for the games at the RBC Center.
Prairie said the Hurricanes were bracing for more Penguins fans to attend Saturday night because of the holiday weekend, but the response from local fans in the Raleigh area made that a nonissue.
"People from Pittsburgh would have had to have been on the ball because the tickets were gone so quickly," Prairie said.
Unlike some other sports, the NHL does not require its teams to set aside tickets for purchase by visiting teams. The only ways fans can buy tickets are at the box office, by phone or online.
Penguins fans could still purchase seats for the games at the RBC Center through ticket brokers, but likely at a higher price than face value. Tickets for Game 3 were going for between $169 and $399 yesterday at stubhub.com.
Prairie said the only time the Hurricanes block area codes and ZIP codes is for the Stanley Cup final, but it's not to deter the opponents' fans from buying tickets. It's done to prevent the online ticket brokers such as stubhub.com from charging fans exorbitant prices well above the face value of tickets.
The Penguins had a similar policy until this season. They used to allow only fans within a 120-mile radius to purchase tickets for games online. That policy is no longer in use because the club believes it has a handle on how to limit the number of tickets brokers can buy.
Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1230.