Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Message I Just Knew Was Coming

Three hundred and sixty three days ago, we published this epitaph to the National Hockey League’s 2012 lockout of its players and our own participation as a season ticket holder for the Washington Capitals.  We closed that essay with this:

“…when the NHL locked out its players, it locked out its fans, too.  The difference between one and the other is that the players will be back.  And even though I suppose most fans will be back, I won’t be, not as a season ticket holder.  One might argue that I’m turning my back on the NHL, but the fact is the league turned its back on me and thousands of other fans when it decided to go down this road one more time.”

Well, it didn’t take as much as a year, just 363 days.  But the league, or at least the Caps, came back.  Earlier today, I received this e-mail message…

The team with sellouts as far as the eye can see, so it is told, has a “limited amount” of prorated full season tickets available.  Not a "waiting list"... "available."  I’m familiar enough with arithmetic to think that if there is a limited number of full season tickets "available," then not all the season tickets "available" were sold in the first place (don’t blow smoke up my drawers that its half-way through the season, and one can better estimate and calibrate how many of individual tickets or partial plan tickets or another set of full season tickets are “available”).  

Full disclosure: when we went to the site, there were 78 such tickets "available."  A small number, perhaps, but one would have thought the "waiting list" we've been led to believe was as long as F Street would have snapped those up without having to resort to an e-mail solicitation.

And look!  A blast from the past!!  Don’t buy these tickets to see an exciting brand of hockey displayed by the home team.  Come see San Jose, Boston, Los Angeles!  And, for heaven’s sake, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia!  A page ripped out of the playbook of the hapless Washington Bullets of days gone by, hawking tickets to the local folk to see other teams come to town? 

How stunningly pathetic is this?  Except for the image of an “autographed player photo from the player of your choice,” the example referred to being Nicklas Backstrom (in an all but illegible font), there is not one reference to a Capitals player – not three-time and defending Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin, not former Norris Trophy finalist Mike Green, not stalwart Capitals of years standing such as Brooks Laich or Michal Neuvirth, not newly minted U.S. Olympian John Carlson.

Come see the Sharks, the Bruins, the Kings.  Come see the Flyers and the Penguins.

"Gifts," "incentives," the "membership experience."  The word "hockey" never appears.

And lest we forget, if I was to renew my subscription with the purchase of a prorated season ticket package, I would receive “guaranteed access to same number of seats in [my] plan for the 2015 Winter Classic.”  What?  I would have thought this team – the one that has sold out more than 200 consecutive games, or so it is told – would have been able to sell its complement of Winter Classic tickets to its vast population of current season ticket holders without breaking a sweat.

Not quite a year ago, we wrote this:

“In the end, I can't even be angry, just sad.  Sad in the knowledge that in almost 29 years as a fan attending games when I could, then as a partial plan holder, and then as a season ticket holder, I was there when the Caps were the lunch-pail team working hard and busting tail, despite the playoff disappointments.  I was there when the Caps were frustrated year after year, first by the Islanders, then by the Penguins.  I was there when the Caps tried to do the right thing and trade for a superstar in Jaromir Jagr, then when they traded Jagr away to start to rebuild their team.  I was there going into and coming out of The Great Lockout of 2004-2005, when the Caps tried hard but weren't very good.  I was there when the Caps couldn't draw flies. I was there when they made themselves competitive again.  I was not alone.  A lot of season ticket holders, fierce in their loyalty, could tell a similar story here in Washington and in a lot of other cities around the league.”

I – and many like me – was pushed out by the league and its contemptible hijinks last year.  Now, it seems all is not quite well in this little corner of the league’s universe, or perhaps not quite as well as we've been informed.  All that this communication says to me is that the team has inventory to move.  Oh, I’m sure one might try to rebut that by saying this, that or the other thing about the science of ticketing and marketing, but to that I say, “yeah, that’s YOUR story.”

Tell it walkin’.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

After 25+ seasons as a various-level season ticket holder to Caps games (like you, full season as I got older/had more money), I cancelled the day the most recent lockout was announced.

Ted Leonsis was one of a very small group of owners on the league's bargaining committee. Though Ted "If I said 500 words in the 50 (lockout negotiating) sessions in total that I attended, I think that would be an exaggeration" distanced himself from his lockout, I won't forget. Ever.

See article:

And, I've been around a long, long time... Rock the Red? Ted's marketing prowess? It's star shine, baby. Once OV leaves town, folks will be able to get ROWS of seats. Again. Watch.

I didn't get the email you did, Peerless. I insisted the Caps remove me from all team lists and databases the day I cancelled.

Ted can have my seats. And my Backstrom signature. And those Winter Classic seats, too.