NHL taking shot at higher ticket prices

DETROIT Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:00am EDT

Montreal Canadiens Travis Moen sends Phoenix Coyotes Sami Lepisto crashing into the boards during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Montreal, October 25, 2010. Moen was given a boarding penalty on the play. REUTERS/Shaun Best

Montreal Canadiens Travis Moen sends Phoenix Coyotes Sami Lepisto crashing into the boards during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Montreal, October 25, 2010. Moen was given a boarding penalty on the play.

Credit: Reuters/Shaun Best

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DETROIT (Reuters) - National Hockey League teams are taking a shot at raising ticket prices this year, joining other sports leagues that have increased the costs of seeing games as the recession recedes.

The average price of an NHL ticket rose 4.4 percent to $54.25, a year after the weak economy led the North American sports league to essentially freeze prices, according to an annual survey by a sports marketing firm.

While 11 of the NHL's 30 teams cut or kept their average prices unchanged, the league average included increases of 24.2 percent by the Washington Capitals and 18.4 percent by defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, according to Team Marketing Report, which tracks ticket costs in the major North American sports leagues.

The recession last year forced sports leagues and teams to rethink prices as consumers cut spending on tickets as well as food and souvenirs at the games.

But the NHL's increase echoed upward moves by other leagues as the effects of the recession have eased. Average ticket prices rose 1.5 percent for Major League Baseball and 4.5 percent for the National Football League this season, according to Team Marketing Report.

Other NHL teams with double-digit percentage increases in average prices were the New York Islanders, up 19.7 percent, and the Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers, both up 11 percent, TMR said.

This year, eight teams kept average prices flat, while three cut them, TMR said. Last year, 14 teams had left prices the same, and five cut them.

Prior to last year's slight increase of 0.1 percent, average NHL ticket prices had risen 5.1 percent (2008-2009), 7.7 percent (2007-2008) and 3.7 percent (2006-2007).

The average premium ticket price is $121.02, TMR said.

PRICE HIKES FOR FAMILY, TOO

Meanwhile, the average Fan Cost Index -- the cost for a family of four to attend a game -- also rose 4.4 percent, to $313.68, TMR said.

The FCI includes the cost of four tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking, two game programs and two caps.

Leading the NHL in average FCI prices were the Blackhawks, up 20.2 percent to $350.58, and the Capitals, up 15.2 percent to $327.29, according to TMR. The two other teams with double-digit percentage increases were the Islanders, up 13.3 percent, and Pittsburgh Penguins, up 11.4 percent.

The Toronto Maple Leafs remained the team with the highest average ticket price at $115.96, unchanged from last year, TMR said. The Canadian team's FCI was also the highest at $572.32, up 5.8 percent.

Rounding out the top five teams with the highest average prices were the Montreal Canadiens ($86.44, flat), Calgary Flames ($66.68, up 2.9 percent), Vancouver Canucks ($65.20, flat) and Edmonton Oilers ($64.87, up 4.2 percent), TMR said.

Canadian prices are translated into U.S. dollars, and the 2009-2010 prices are retroactively matched to the current exchange rate. The Canadian dollar rallied 15.9 percent against the U.S. dollar in 2009 and has appreciated a further 2.5 percent since the start of the year.

The U.S. team with the highest average ticket price was the Minnesota Wild at No. 6 ($62.53, up 2.6 percent), TMR said.

The Dallas Stars had the lowest average price at $29.68 (off 2.5 percent), as well as the lowest FCI at $222.68 (off 1.3 percent), TMR said. The Atlanta Thrashers had the biggest decline in average ticket price, down 10.1 percent to $43.59.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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