Are high prices, ‘Kings fatigue’ dampening enthusiasm for Oilers playoff tickets?

By Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press

The in-house decibel meter shot past 100 throughout the game. More than 1,150 hats — 14 bags full — were collected after Zach Hyman scored his third goal of the game.

Just another raucous playoff night at Edmonton’s Rogers Place, right? Not quite.

The Oilers announced a sellout crowd for their 7-4 win over Los Angeles on Monday that opened a first-round playoff series with the Kings.

Unoccupied seats, however, were noticeable throughout the arena. There was an entire row that was empty just behind the Oilers bench. In another lower bowl section, seats close to ice level remained empty during the duration of the game. There were a few empty pairs at each end of the rink.

As of 8 p.m. MT, just minutes before the national anthems played, the Ticketmaster site showed around 180 unsold seats on its Rogers Place map.

Oilers team officials said that the unsold seats were returned holds from the visiting Kings and the NHL — friends and family tickets that weren’t used.

Some of the empty seats could also be attributed to fans who tried to resell their tickets, but couldn’t.

RELATED: Oilers fans criticize price hike on social media as playoff tickets go on sale

The players were still bullish about the home support.

“A lot of people have talked about the atmosphere,” said forward Adam Henrique, who scored in his first playoff game as an Oiler. “Personally, you can feel the buzz, running into people outside the rink, you can feel the connection from the fans to the team, to the players, and what it means to a lot of people.

“To get out there and experience that first-hand was pretty special.”

While it took right up till opening faceoff for the Oilers to call Game 1 a sellout, they’ve got work to do when it comes to filling the building for Game 2 on Wednesday night and a potential Game 5 on May 1.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Ticketmaster site showed more than 275 unsold seats for Game 2, and thousands more available on the resale market. There were more than 500 unsold seats for a potential Game 5, and, again, thousands available on the resale market.

The Oilers’ players have been using the “Cup or bust” mantra since the first day of training camp, and Edmonton vanquished the Kings in the first round of the previous two playoffs. So, fans of the heavily favoured Oilers could be looking past this series.

Taylor Burns, a season-ticket holder, said he’s staying home, for now.

Burns plans to sell his tickets for the majority, if not all, of the Oilers’ first playoff round. If they beat the Kings, he doesn’t expect to be around Rogers Place for much of the second round, either.

“For me, it’s not about L.A.,” said Burns. “It’s Cup or nothing. The past two years were a ton of fun, but I’m just not going to a game during the week this year until the third round.”

Puck drop for Game 1 came at 8:20 p.m. MT on a Monday night, and that’s another reason Burns said non-weekend games are a no-go. There will be late starts for home games throughout the series.

Trevor Boe took clients out to watch Game 1. The company he previously worked for had a corporate box, and the company he’s representing in his new job is looking at purchasing season seats, but he said the rising price of tickets is a barrier.

Like many teams, the Oilers tie playoff ticket sales to season-ticket sales and renewals for next season. A purchase of season tickets guarantees the chance to buy playoff tickets.

And ticket prices have gone up. According to the Oilers season-seat brochure, it will cost $13,918 for a 45-game season-seat club seat down to $2,498 for the most inexpensive upper bowl package. Compare that to the 23-24 season range, from $12,247 to $2,238.

Reddit groups of season-ticket holders have decried the prices of playoff tickets, with some commenters saying they aren’t going to go to any playoff games because of the steep price hikes on post-season tickets. If the Oilers make the Cup final, a club seat that sells for $564 in the first round will rise to $1,555.

For those looking for face-value seats for Game 2, they can expect to pay $238.75 each for tickets near the top of the upper bowl, and $760 for a premium lower-bowl seat.

Boe enjoyed Game 1, but said he has Kings fatigue.

“With the atmosphere of Game 1, I’d say it was worth it. But we could be looking at seeing the Kings three more times in this series, and the year before we saw them three times. The year before that, four home games. So, yeah, seeing the Kings is getting a little long in the tooth.”

Hyman said that his team is in no way sick of playing the Kings.

“It’s the same logo, the same core guys but they’re the team we need to beat right now.”

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