Ice Bowl ticket is hottest around
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It took less than 30 minutes for the National Hockey League's outdoor "Ice Bowl" game to sell out yesterday, leaving the league thrilled that interest is so high for the Jan. 1 matchup between the Penguins and host Buffalo Sabres.
With such demand, though, some Penguins fans were left, well, out in the cold.
Team vice president of communications Tom McMillan said the club heard from many who were disappointed or angry that they were not able to buy seats for the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic, which will be played in the Buffalo Bills' Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. The venue seats nearly 74,000.
Although visiting NHL teams don't normally have seats set aside for their fans, in this case 1,500 tickets were available exclusively to Penguins season ticket holders, who were given a password to use when ordering online. Once those 1,500 were gone, however, Penguins season tickets holders were on their own, along with everyone else trying to buy the 42,000 seats for sale yesterday.
Tickets were sold online and at the stadium and the Sabres' HSBC Arena, beginning at 10 a.m.
The Penguins have sold the equivalent of 13,500 season tickets per game, so the 1,500 apparently did not stretch far, leaving season ticket holders and other Pittsburgh hockey fans the alternative of buying tickets from brokers at inflated prices unless more tickets become available.
"The NHL should have taken care of the Buffalo Sabres' and Pittsburgh Penguins' season ticket holders first because we're the ones who shell out the big bucks," said Penguins season ticket holder Kevin Yackmack of Aliquippa, adding he thought there should have been an advance sale for those fans.
"And the Penguins should have made sure they were on top of this."
Mr. Yackmack, who already had hotel reservations and was hoping to get a group together for the road trip, logged on at 10:05 a.m. and gave up trying to get two tickets at 10:45 a.m. when he saw the sellout announced on the Sabres' Web site.
"We are working with the league to see if we can get another allotment of tickets for our season ticket holders," Mr. McMillan said. "It's amazing to sell that many tickets that quickly."
NHL officials thought so, too.
"Demonstrating once again that our fans are the most passionate in sports, more than 42,000 tickets for the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic were sold in the first 30 minutes of availability," the league said in a statement. "Due to the overwhelming demand, plus our commitment to Sabres and Penguins season ticket holders, the Buffalo Bills and sponsors of the event, we are currently sold out. If additional tickets become available, we'll release the information at a later date."
More than 30,000 seats are on hold for the roughly 16,000 Sabres season ticket holders who already had seats for that regular-season game, for Bills club seat members and for the NHL.
Those ticket holders can opt out, but if any of those seats become available for sale, it might not be for some time, said Sabres public relations director Michael Gilbert. It's not known if the NHL might give up some of the league's allotment, which is set to go to players, executives and sponsors.
Also among the 30,000 set aside are 7,000 that could have obstructed views, depending on how the NBC cameras are staged, Mr. Gilbert said. Those that are determined not to be obstructed might become available for sale.
This is the first time an NHL regular-season game has been played outdoors in the United States, and the first time the NHL has attempted to run this type of event.
The previous outdoor game, in 2003, was run by host Edmonton.
It's believed league officials were more concerned about selling a lot of tickets than they were about not having enough.
With the hope of attracting groups such as youth hockey teams and families, the NHL did not set a limit on the number of tickets individuals could buy. Mr. Gilbert dashed speculation that scalpers reacted by scooping up tickets in large quantities.
"We worked with [online ticket agent] TicketMaster on this, and they said the largest block of tickets sold was 32," Mr. Gilbert said.
In addition, only 133 seats set aside for Toronto Blue Jays season ticket holders and less than 200 set aside for Toronto Maple Leafs season ticket holders were sold, Mr. Gilbert said. Those teams were included as the NHL and Sabres attempted to market the game in nearby southern Ontario.
It's clear some tickets were bought to make money. After the sellout, dozens were for sale on online markets eBay, StubHub and Craigslist, many for much more than the face value, which ranged from $29 to $203.
Mr. McMillan said he had no way of knowing how many Penguins fans or people from Pittsburgh got hold of the 42,000 tickets that were sold.
"With what amounted to a national sale, a new dynamic comes into play when you have this kind of massive online event," he said.
First Published September 19, 2007 12:00 am