I’m obviously in the minority here, but my trusty calculator and I still can’t grasp how a National Hockey League team in Hamilton spells certain doom for Buffalo.
The Sabres say that 15 percent of their season ticket holders are Canadian and that one in every four fannies that grace the HSBC Arena seats come from over the border. If the Sabres insist a new Hamilton team be shifted into their division — and the league will likely grant Buffalo any and all wishes — that means four Hamilton-Buffalo games would be played on this side of the river.
OK, follow the math here for a sec — if, say, a well-off Port Colborne hockey fan falls for Jim Balsillie’s new team, wouldn’t keeping seats in Buffalo make financial sense? Assuming all four home games are deemed platinum under the Sabres’ variable pricing scheme (Toronto games are), the savings would be immense. To buy 100 level II seats, for example, the season-ticket price last year was $46 per contest. The price for platinum games on a single-game basis was $185.
Number crunching time — to buy tickets for the four Hamilton games would run $740. Season tickets in the same level are $1,886.
Let’s see, four games for $740 or all 41 for $1,886? Canadians are pretty bright, right? I mean, they figured out this Tragically Hip thing way before we did. I’m assuming they have calculators, too.
Throw in the four Leafs games and that’s $1,480 for the eight games against teams from Southern Ontario. To get the other 33 games would only run another 400 bucks. And since the club essentially pimps unwanted tickets out through an online service called My Sabres Tickets, getting rid of the rest is pretty easy.
One of the reasons so many Canadians have season tickets now is because the Sabres have priced their beloved Leafs games so ridiculously high that it makes more sense to buy the whole thing. Having a team in Hamilton — and pricing similarly — should entice more Canadians to do the same.
And let’s take a peek at the Hamilton situation. If Balsillie ends up paying over $200 million for the team, another $100 million to the NHL as a relocation fee, then maybe another $100 million to renovate Copps Coliseum, think these seats will be cheap? Hardly.
He didn’t become a billionaire thrice over by making haphazard decisions with his wallet. There must be a big demand for this team. Big demand equals big ticket prices.
That means Buffalo would still be a smart alternative for fans who can’t mortgage the house for a Saturday night of pucks and punches.