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Caps play-by-play man John Walton: “Thug hockey back” in Philly; Calls Flyers goalie Ray Emery’s actions “a disgrace” and worthy of NHL suspension

From Washington Capitals radio play-by-play man John Walton’s call of the Ray Emery-Braden Holtby incident last night (Listen to it on Walton’s blog through the link below):

“Emery takes him down. Oh my goodness. You’ve gotta be kidding me. Ray Emery sucker punching Holtby. He’s still punching him. The referee hasn’t stopped it yet. Oh what a dirty play by Ray Emery. Taking Braden Holtby down. Thug hockey back in town. You’re losing by a touchdown and you just grab a sweater. If you think that’s gonna get you standings points, think again. The Buffalo Sabres are the only thing saving this team from being the bottom of the Eastern Conference and now they’ve taken it to the alley in the dirtiest way possible. Ray Emery went after Holtby. Holtby did not want it. He absolutely didn’t want to fight him. And Emery sucker punched him six times. It’s the only cheer you’re gonna hear out of this building tonight. That’s a disgrace. Ray Emery, a disgrace what he just did.”

“Suspend that guy. Suspend him right now,” Walton went on to say regarding Emery.

full audio clip of Walton calling the Emery-Holtby goalie altercation is available on his Capitals Voice blog.

And here’s a great shot of Michael Latta being waved off during the fight by referee François St-Laurent:

Low secondary market prices for upcoming, not-yet-sold-out Penguins-Caps game; NHL resale prices up overall

Washington Capitals tickets on secondary market sites like StubHub and NHL Ticket Exchange have been selling at their lowest average prices since the 2010-11 season (10/8/13) and the team’s upcoming November 20 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, while one of the higher priced Caps home games on the resale market, is no exception.

“We’re seeing an average ticket price of $120 for that game, which is the lowest for a Caps-Penguins game in D.C. since we began tracking data on the NHL resale market [in 2010],” wrote Connor Gregoire, Communications Analyst with ticket search engine SeatGeek, in an October 22 email. “The average resale price in the 400 level for that game is $71 per ticket.”

Average Resale Price for Pittsburgh at Washington since 2010
for tickets overall and 400 Level tickets (Source: SeatGeek)

Date Avg Price 400 Level Avg
2/6/2011 $166 $117
12/23/2010 $159 $112
1/11/2012 $146 $100
2/3/2013 $138 $95
12/1/2011 $138 $93
3/24/2010 $126 $81
2/7/2010 $121 $75
11/20/2013 $120 $71

The November 20 match-up against Pittsburgh is not yet sold out. Tickets remain available through TicketMaster, starting at $84 in the 400 Level of Verizon Center. The lowest priced tickets for sale to this game on the secondary market as of this posting are a pair for $63 each in section 431, Row G on the NHL Ticket Exchange.

Overall, average NHL resale prices are on the rise. Gregoire explained, “We’ve actually seen a 10 percent uptick in the average ticket price across the league through this point in the season as compared to the lockout-shortened year. The average resale price across the NHL is $89 per ticket so far this season compared to $81 through as many games last season. In the 2011-12 season, tickets sold for $87 each on average through this point in the year, so it appears that we’re seeing a recovery in demand for tickets in 2013-14 after the lockout.”

Washington has been promoting value-added ticket deals via email for some games in recent weeks, including Ticket-Food-Drink packages starting at $59 per ticket and another offering two upper level seats and a signed puck for $99. The November 20 game against Pittsburgh is not listed as part of either offer.

The team also continues to promote “Fan Packs” for some games, offering two tickets for $69. But that deal doesn’t make much sense for customers, considering seats to those games are available at far cheaper prices in the same sections of Verizon Center via the secondary ticket market, including NHL Ticket Exchange, which the Caps also promote via email (“Sorry Caps, but this is bad marketing,” 10/7/13).

The Caps did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

Washington Capitals hockey tickets at lowest average resale prices since 2010

Prices for Washington Capitals tickets on the secondary market, the term used for platforms such as StubHub or Ticket Exchange where individuals can resell seats to sports and other events, have seemed extremely low as the 2013-14 hockey season has gotten underway. It turns out, prices are the lowest they’ve been since 2010.

An analyst with SeatGeek, a ticket search engine that looks at “dozens of the biggest ticket sites and present the results all in one place,” was kind enough to put together some numbers for me on secondary market prices for Caps tickets. They have data going back to the start of the 2010-11 season and it shows just how low prices currently are.

From SeatGeek:

  • Two of the Capitals’ next three home games — Thursday against Carolina ($37 average resale price) and next Monday against Edmonton ($38 average resale price) — are the two cheapest Caps regular season home games since the start of the 2010-11 season. In fact, only one other game — an October 13, 2010 matchup against the Islanders ($39 average resale price) — has drawn an average resale price under $40 in that span.

To put that in perspective, for that October 13, 2010 game against the Islanders, which was the last time the average resale price for Caps tickets was this low, Tomas Fleischmann was on the team, DJ King was in the line-up for the first time as a Capital, and Matt Bradley, though scratched due to an injury, was still with Washington.

Another stat from SeatGeek:

  • The average resale price in the 400 level is $40 or less for each of the Caps’ first 11 home games of the season, including last Thursday’s home opener against Calgary. That’s by far the longest such stretch since the start of the 2010-11 season; in that time, we’ve never seen more than three consecutive Caps home games with an average 400-level resale price of $40 or less. For the Carolina and Edmonton games, 400-level seats are reselling at an average of just $18 per ticket.

And one final SeatGeek point:

  • The secondary market for Capitals tickets as a whole is down considerably this season. Washington currently ranks 21st out of 30 teams in overall average resale price at $73 per ticket, falling from 14th at $90 per ticket last season; that’s a 19 percent dip in average resale price. In the 2011-12 campaign, the Caps ranked 15th at $101 per ticket, and in 2010-11 they were 12th at $90 per ticket.

It’s a great time to be a buyer, Caps fans.

Sorry Caps, but this is bad marketing

Caps fan packs

On Friday I got the above email from the Caps, offering two 400 Level tickets for $69 to either the October 10 game against the Hurricanes or October 14 versus the Oilers. That’s $34.50 per ticket for seats that cost $51 at full price, which might seem like a pretty good deal at first glance.

But if you visit the TicketMaster website to buy those Fan Packs from the Caps and then click on the “Resale” tab instead, you’ll find that upper level seats to those games can currently be purchased for as low as $11 through the NHL Ticket Exchange, which the Caps have promoted by email, as recently as a week ago, as a place to “buy or sell worry-free.” Seats for October 10 and October 14 are plentiful there, with over 2,000 available to each game.

Hurricanes Ticket ExchangeOilers Ticket Exchange

When I can buy tickets in the same sections of the arena for close to 70% less through the “Verified by TicketMaster” NHL Ticket Exchange, a platform that is accessible from the Caps’ website, why would I take advantage of a $34.50 sales offer from the team? The Caps are promoting a Fan Pack that is nothing more than two seats together at a discounted price that can be had for far less money just a couple of NHL-approved clicks away.

If the Caps want people to buy their remaining 400 Level inventory for these two games, they’re going to need to do better than this. Dropping their prices down to the levels of the resale market wouldn’t make much sense, but they could add more value to the Fan Packs. For example, they could throw in food and drink vouchers or add something unique to this promotion that a fan can’t get anywhere else, giving people a reason to want the team’s offer more than the far cheaper options available through resellers.

Otherwise, the Caps will have to count on some fans buying these Fan Packs because they’re unaware of options like the NHL Ticket Exchange. And depending on your customers being uninformed doesn’t strike me as a great marketing practice.

Caps Q&A with Sick, Unbelievable

Kevin Klein from Sick, Unbelievable was nice enough to take the time to answer some questions via email about the new Caps season.  You can follow Sick, Unbelievable on Twitter.

1) During the NHL Network coverage of the Caps preseason game vs. the Jets, it was twice mentioned that the Caps will miss Mike Ribeiro. Agree or disagree?

Before George McPhee went out and got Mikhail Grabovski, I would have agreed. Regardless of how “lucky” Ribeiro was (a not-exactly-accurate term used on account of his high on-ice shooting percentage and powerplay success), that kind of production was going to be missed. There wasn’t a soul on the roster in June who better fit the mold of 2C than Mike Ribeiro.

Grabovski changed that. He probably won’t be quite as high-octane on the man-to-the-good as Ribeiro was a year ago, but Grabovski has made a career of keeping the puck in the offensive zone at even strength. With the vast majority of the hockey game pie going to the even-strength slice, Grabovski is more likely than not an upgrade at the position. And that’s a conjecture made purely based on his on-ice merit and the Caps’ weaknesses from a year, with nothing to say for his friendlier age, contract, and possible future in the Nation’s Capital.

2) What forwards end up getting the most top 6 minutes?

I’d be a fool to veer away from the obvious answer: the top two lines, whoever they shake out to be. There’s a lot of modularity there with guys like Martin Erat, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer and Eric Fehr. After Ovechkin, Backstrom, Johansson, and Grabovski, it’s anyone’s guess.

3) One much discussed topic this preseason is who will see minutes on the 2nd defensive pair. Assuming Mike Green, Karl Alzner and John Carlson are the top 3 blueliners in terms of ice time, what defenseman will see the 4th most amount of minutes this season?

By all accounts it will be John Erskine, and if you ask me, that particular lineup choice is the team’s greatest roster flaw. Erskine’s underlying numbers for a year ago don’t represent how poorly he played— a fact that can singularly be attributed to the fact that he received a .944 sv % from the padstacker behind him over the course of the season. That goaltending didn’t add up in the playoffs, and as a result Erskine was exposed as something of a goat.

I’d expect the Capitals to make a move to obtain another, defensively stronger, left-handed D-man at the deadline to play on the second pairing.

4) Who/What will be the biggest surprise this year, good or bad?

I don’t know if you can call him a surprise at this point, but in many people’s eyes Braden Holtby is still unproven. It’s not a terribly unfounded notion, as Holtby has only played 57 career regular season games— in the ballpark of 1 full season’s work for a non-Lundqvistian NHL goaltender.

By no fault of his own, this will be Holtby’s first chance to put together a strong campaign over the course of a full schedule. Of all goalies that have played a minimum of 2500 minutes at even strength during the past three years, Holtby has the seventh best save percentage. If he can improve upon that, while continuing to rack up the wins (the guy’s got a .649 career winning percentage), it’ll be hard to argue that the Canadian Olympic-hopeful isn’t the real deal— and yeah, I think that will surprise some people.

5) How does this season end for the team?

In my 3-Dieselpunk’s deep mind’s eye, the season ends with Ovi drinking Vodka from the Stanley Cup (and me sharing an under the pressbox seat fistbump with Vlad Putin). In reality I think they absolutely make the playoffs— despite now competing in a substantially more stacked division, this team boasts an opening day lineup that looks as good as any they’ve had in the last ten years. In any event, anything less than a birth in the Conference Finals will be a disappointment, and that doesn’t have as much to do with the paper lineup as it does with our expectations, as they’ve been bred by the organization.

Caps Q&A with sportswriter Ted Starkey

Ted Starkey was nice enough to answer some questions I sent to him over email about the upcoming Caps season.  If you’re not familiar with Ted, you should check out his two books about the Caps and  follow him on Twitter.

Pat Holden: During the NHL Network coverage of the Caps preseason game vs. the Jets, it was twice mentioned that the Caps will miss Mike Ribeiro. Agree or disagree?

Ted Starkey: If the Capitals wouldn’t have signed Michail Grabovski, the second-line center position would be a huge problem for Washington. While Grabovski might not be quite the scorer Ribeiro is, his playmaking skills certainly will keep from being a big dropoff after Nicklas Backstrom in the middle. They will miss Ribeiro a bit, but certainly not to the degree where it will be a tremendous liability.

PH: What forwards end up getting the most top 6 minutes?

TS: Most likely, you will see beyond the clear-cut of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Grabovski getting the most time, you should see Marcus Johansson on the wing on the top lines (although he will need more consistent production), and Martin Erat and Troy Brouwer on the second line. There’s a pretty clean dividing line – with Brooks Laich’s injury – between the Top and Bottom 6 in the lineup.

PH: Tom Wilson makes the cut, yes or no? (ed. note: This Q&A was done 2 days before rosters were finalized)

TS: Yes, the team certainly feels the rugged forward has outgrown his usefulness in juniors. If anything, the Capitals keep Wilson in Washington off the bat, allowing them to punt their decision for 9 games. But barring a major regression there, he’s in Washington for good.

PH: One much discussed topic this preseason is who will see minutes on the 2nd defensive pair. Assuming Mike Green, Karl Alzner and John Carlson are the top 3 blueliners in terms of ice time, what defenseman will see the 4th most amount of minutes this season?

TS: Capitals certainly will try to use John Erskine in a Top 4 role as a balance for either the rushing partner of Green or Carlson, but the question is how he does at the age of 33, as he has shown some signs of slowing down. Part of the reasoning for putting him with an offensive counterpart is to allow the other to take some chances, if Green or Carlson have to be aware of a potential liability, it certainly opens the door for someone else to step in.

PH: Who/What will be the biggest surprise this year, good or bad?

TS: Grabovski should be a good boost to the Capitals this year, as he has excelled in preseason and seems to be a good fit for the lineup. His presence fills a major gap left by Ribeiro’s departure, and he should have a nice rebound season after being used in a limited role in Toronto.

PH: How does this season end for the team?

TS: Capitals will have a decent season, finishing 2nd in the Metropolitan Division. It remains to be seen, however, how the new playoff format that likely earns them dates with one of their recent playoff foes – the Penguins, Flyers or Rangers – will be for the team’s postseason hopes. Most likely, the Capitals can perhaps win a round, but realignment makes that road to the Stanley Cup a bit tougher for Washington.
_______________________

I’d like to extend a sincere thanks to Ted for taking the time to do this.

Caps email: “Limited Tickets Available for Caps Home Opener” — Secondary market has far better options though

The Caps sent out an email this morning titled “Limited Tickets Available for Caps Home Opener.” That’s true, there are still some tickets available via TicketMaster for the team’s Thursday, October 3 match-up against the Calgary Flames. And those aren’t just scattered singles. You can buy multiple seats together in various locations, mostly in the 400 Level of Verizon Center.

Caps opening night 2013-14 tickets

But in reality, there are plenty of tickets available for the Caps home opener and other games through the secondary market and, in many cases, they’re far cheaper than if you buy them from the team. As of this posting, you can spend $57.90 via TicketMaster for a full price ticket to the home opener in Section 426 or you can get a seat in that same section for $30 through StubHub and for $25 via Ticket Exchange, “the official resale partner of the NHL,” which the Caps link to from their own website.

There’s nothing wrong with the Caps pushing their remaining tickets for the home opener; they’re a business and have inventory to sell. But a well-informed consumer could get in the door for about half that price if they take advantage of the deals available through resellers, where availability is far from limited. As of this posting, there are 1,518 seats listed on Ticket Exchange for that first home game and 2,409 on StubHub.

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With hockey season one week away, plenty of cheap Caps tickets are available through the resale market

Caps tickets on StubHub

There are many opportunities to see a Caps game for less than face value in October.

The Washington Capitals took a break from raising ticket prices this season after being pretty aggressive with some of their increases for several years in a row. I’ve spoken with more than one person who feels it’s become a bit expensive to go to a Caps game during the Rock the Red era and that’s certainly something I can relate to as a father of three.

Demand rose as the team got hot and the days of $10 top row Eagle’s Nest seats at Verizon Center are gone by miles. It would cost about $250 for my family to attend a Caps game this season in the 400 Level seats furthest from the ice (which I don’t mind sitting in at all), if I purchased them through the team. And that’s just for the tickets.

Park the car or pay for Metro, buy a snack and we’d be at over $300 for one family night out at a regular season game in the cheapest face value seats available. People are right to say a trip to Verizon Center has become a pricey experience over the past five-plus seasons or so.

But here’s some good news if you enjoy going to Caps games, yet don’t have a budget that allows you to spend the equivalent of a car payment for your family to attend a sporting event. Washington opens the 2013-14 NHL season next week and tickets to most of the team’s home games are available at big discounts on the resale market, including several in October.

First, the most expensive of the upcoming games: For the Caps home opener against the Calgary Flames on Thursday, October 3, tickets currently start at $32.20 on StubHub and at $27 on the Capitals Ticket Exchange, prices that are well below face value. There are 2,594 available for that game on StubHub and 1,818 on Ticket Exchange. Those $32.30 seats available through StubHub, which includes all fees in that price, are in a section of the 400 level at Verizon Center that would cost $57.90 total with fees through TicketMaster. That’s close to half-price for the first home game of the season, which I’ve always found to be a fun event.

From there, most of the October tickets get even cheaper. When the Carolina Hurricanes visit a week later on October 10, tickets are currently priced at $16.80 on StubHub with 2,870 available and at $14 on Ticket Exchange with 2,132 seats listed. The New York Rangers, often a fairly hot ticket in DC, visit Washington on Wednesday, October 16 and prices for that remain relatively low as well. 2,729 tickets are currently posted on StubHub, with the lowest priced at $31.10. On Ticket Exchange, 1,889 are available and they start at $26.

You can also see Edmonton when they visit on Monday, October 14 for as little as $13 (StubHub), Colorado on Saturday, October 12 starting at $24 (Ticket Exchange), and Columbus for $27 (Ticket Exchange) when they visit on Saturday the 19th.

October isn’t the only time when 2013-14 Caps tickets are available at discounted prices. As of this posting, there are plenty more tickets for sale at below face value over the course of the season if you scroll through the listings for the Caps on StubHub or Ticket Exchange.

If you really want to see a game for dirt cheap, check out the resale prices for the Caps two preseason games at Verizon Center this week against Nashville and Philadelphia. You may not see all the stars in those lineups and the games don’t count in the standings, but seats can be had for $4.49 (StubHub) versus the Predators or for $5 (Ticket Exchange) when the Caps face the Flyers.

Another approach is to wait until the day of a game to see if prices drop further on the resale markets as the start time approaches and ticket holders look to just get whatever they can, rather than nothing at all (be sure to confirm what time the resale sites cut off sales). This can work against you if inventory gets low and prices start moving up instead of down. But sometimes you can get some bargains – I got five seats for a grand total of $54.90 using this approach the season before last: “How to see a Washington Capitals game without spending a ton.”

Caps defenseman Karl Alzner buys some season ticket holders their coffee

A friend posted this on Facebook today and I thought it was cool:

Alzer buys Caps fans coffee

Stanley Cup Finals TV broadcasting approach feels disjointed, shortsighted

There are certainly television and sports executives who know this stuff better than I do, but there’s something in the current NHL/NBC television deal that strikes me as an odd way to best build interest in the NHL.

Under the current agreement, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals airs on NBC. That’s great; it means the three-overtime-thriller between Boston and Chicago last week could be seen on almost any TV with either basic cable or a set of rabbit ears within range of an NBC affiliate. The game drew the best overnight ratings for Game 1 of a Stanley Cup Final in 16 years.

However, anyone who watched that game and then tuned into NBC Saturday night for Game 2 discovered the game wasn’t being carried there. The second game of the Blackhawks-Bruins series was airing on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), as the current TV deal calls for Games 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 to be carried on NBC and for Games 2 and 3 to air on NBCSN. Unfortunately, millions of people who get NBC in their homes don’t have NBCSN [Note: After lowering our cable bill by around $100 a month, I'm now one of these people].

On the one hand, this approach by NBC and the NHL seems like a great way to build a sports network. You reel people in with Game 1 and then shift them over to your newer sports channel for the next two games, hopefully building more awareness for it and getting more people to sign up for a cable package that includes NBCSN, which brings in more money via cable fees for NBC.

But there will no doubt be plenty of people—casual sports fans, those who stumbled upon Game 1, etc.—who don’t have NBCSN and who aren’t going to change their cable package for Games 2 and 3 just because they saw a great Game 1. And how many of these people whose interest in hockey rose with Game 1, but who can’t watch Games 2 and 3, will still be dialed into the series by the time Game 4 rolls around?

I’m willing to bet that a good number of people who aren’t die-hard hockey fans are going to lose some interest between Game 1 and 4 if they don’t get the two games in between on TV. For some potential new fans, the series will completely drop of their radar if they can no longer watch. The ‘NBC to NBCSN and then back to NBC’ broadcasting approach seems like an odd way to build momentum. Even if ratings rise during the series, I have to wonder if they would have been even higher if the TV deal put all of the Finals on the major network and stuck with it.

While growing NBCSN is important, there are few opportunities for the NHL to showcase its brand each year the way they can during the Stanley Cup Finals. And turning new fans onto hockey during the Finals should ultimately help future NBCSN ratings, as more people start following the league and seek out NBCSN during future regular seasons and earlier playoff rounds.

NBC could air every game of the Stanley Cup Finals on its major network (as Fox did with the World Series and ABC is currently doing with the NBA Finals), get people hooked on what can be some of the most exciting hockey of the year and then cash in when some of them subscribe to a cable/dish package with NBCSN to watch even more hockey going forward. The current set-up feels disjointed, shortsighted and, while it might help NBCSN more immediately, doesn’t strike me as the most ideal way to get as many people as possible wrapped up in the Stanley Cup Finals and converted into NHL fans.

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