Avalanche Stadium Series: Is it Elitist?


“The outdoor game will be the headline event of our franchise’s 20th anniversary season in Colorado, with many other great events planned throughout the year.” ~Josh Kroenke, Avalanche owner

When the Colorado Avalanche announced they were in the running for a Stadium Series game during the 2013-14 season,  we were all so excited. We had been watching the same teams play those outdoor games, and as lame as it was to just see the Chicago Blackhawks-Detroit Red Wings -LA Kings, etc, playing over and over, we were intrigued by the notion.

Outdoor games are half pond hockey, half circus act. We don’t have pond hockey here in Colorado,  but we could get behind such a spectacle.  Plus, our weather is so unpredictable here, we could have all four seasons during the game. That’s kind of cool.

Well, for whatever reason,  the Avalanche were unable to secure a Stadium Series game for last season. Just as well – the team had to limp through games with so many players injured. Besides,  the 2015-16 season marks the 20th for the Colorado Avalanche.

Sure enough,  Super Joe Sakic seemed to work his magic for the team again.  The NHL announced we were getting a Stadium Series game to be played on February 27, 2016, against our old rivals the Detroit Red Wings.  Even the fact that our current rivals, the Minnesota Wild, were also getting a Stadium Series game couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm.

Well, turns out that, even amidst all the hullabaloo of the 20th anniversary of the team, and the pomp and circumstance surrounding the game, there is something that could dampen our enthusiasm. And that’s the circumstances surrounding the ticketing to the Avalanche Stadium Series game.

Buying Tickets for the Avalanche Stadium Series Game

“This game will NOT go on-sale to the general public.” ~Avalanche business

From the time the NHL announced the Colorado Avalanche had been awarded a Stadium Series game in March to about the end of July, ticketing to the event was shrouded in secrecy. It was thought this was to build anticipation to an already much-anticipated event.

Instead, that secrecy tended to build anxiety. Avalanche fans were already excited about the idea of an outdoor game, and even just casual fans — there are a lot in sport-loving Colorado — figured they’d like to go to the game. We all knew the tickets would be expensive, but we were anxious about the availability.

Turns out we were right to be anxious. It wasn’t until this last week, the third in August, that the league and the Avalanche tipped their hand about their ticketing policy. The ticketing policy is that access to the Avalanche Stadium Series game is for season ticket and partial plan members only.

I repeat, only season ticket holders (for the Avalanche, Colorado Rockies and Detroit Red Wings) and  partial plan members have access to the Coors Light Stadium Series game. In an email sent to me by the team’s marketing, it was spelled out explicitly:

“This game will NOT go on-sale to the general public.”

The emphasis on “not” is not mine. The NHL and the team’s marketing never intended to make tickets available to regular Avalanche fans — only the ones who had season tickets or partial plans.

Ticket Buying Hierarchy

I don’t know about you, but the realization that regular Avalanche fans were never getting access to the Avalanche Stadium Series game came as a shock to me. That’s not where the elitist nature of this event ends though. See, there’s a hierarchy.

The first “people” to have access to the tickets were not people at all, but rather the corporate sponsors of the team. These are the corporations who buy suites or huge blocks of seats for whatever business purposes suit them.

The next wave of people — and these are actual people — to gain access to the tickets are season ticket holders. Now, within this group are several sub-groups, and their access to tickets is murky. The clearest hierarchy comes through chronology — those who have been season ticket holders from the beginning to those who bought for the first time this season. In there is also the inherent hierarchy of who has more valuable season tickets.

I’m not sure what deciding factors are. For example, I don’t know if a five-year season ticket holder in the nosebleeds takes precedence over a newbie on the glass. I don’t know if having had season tickets for three years in the 1990s puts you up the line over someone who’s in their second year congruently. I’m also not entirely sure who’s making these calls.

The ticketing becomes even murkier when you consider that blocks of tickets were made available to both the Red Wings and the Rockies. There’s no knowing if they got access to some of the prime tickets. The only rationale for making tickets available exclusively to them is elitism — rival teams and teams of other sports don’t normally have special access to tickets. However, this is a special game, and special friends deserve special accommodation.

Further muddying the waters is the fact that certain employees of both the Avalanche and the Rockies (possibly also the Red Wings) have access to big chunks of tickets. We’re talking they can buy up to six whereas season ticket holders can buy only two for each seat they own.

After all of these people have bought up tickets, then partial plan holders who’ve bought 20-ticket chunks get access. People with 11-game packs in the lower bowl or club seating get the final access. Whatever’s left over goes to the players.

Meditate on that for a moment — the men actually putting on the show have last access to the tickets. (To be fair, it may be that they got to buy an allotment earlier on, and they get access to extras when ticketing is all over.)

So you see, regular Avalanche fans never had a chance.

Elitist Practices Sully the Game

It all comes down to money. The cynic in me understands and even accepts that. Those who give the most money to the business part of the team get access to this heralded event. That’s the way the world works.

I don’t know why I expected it to be different for the Colorado Avalanche Stadium Series game. I guess I didn’t realize until last week that the league and the team’s business were using this event as a way to drum up season ticket sales overall.

I’ve never been a season ticket or partial plan holder. If you know me, you know I’ve been an Avalanche fan since the Denver Grizzlies — it was at a Denver Grizzlies game that I heard Colorado was getting an NHL team, and I loved them from that moment. I’ve gone to a lot of games — including the third-ever Avs game and second-ever at McNichol’s Arena:

1995 ticket for the Colorado Avalanche. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta

However, because I’ve often worked evening jobs or those that required I be out of the country, it never made sense to get locked into going to certain games — or only certain games.

Apparently that’s going to have to change. A ticket to the Stadium Series game includes a ticket to the Alumni Game being played the evening before, also at Coors Field. At the time of writing, people selling their Avalanche Stadium series game were doubling the price for the two tickets or selling the two separately, which is the same thing.

So, though I still work evenings, I’m buying a partial plan.

I’ll probably end up eating some of those games because of work. I’ll probably buy extra tickets to other games. Monetarily, it may be the same if I just bought scalped tickets. However, I’d rather give my money to the Avalanche than rapacious ticket sellers.

I still love my team, even if the business side of the team doesn’t love me back.

Next: 5 Reasons to be Excited about the Stadium Series Game

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