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Higher Edmonton Oilers playoff tickets a downside of passionate supply-and-demand: Economist

As the Edmonton Oilers enter the final weeks of the regular NHL season and things are looking optimistic about making the playoffs, fans are expressing both excitement but also dismay over an increase in ticket prices.

Across the board, the cost of playoff ticket prices from 2023 and 2024 has gone up for all areas of the arena, during all four possible rounds.

Global News compared the price difference from last year to this for three different sets of the seats inside Rogers Place:

Upper Bowl 1st Round 2nd Round 3rd Round 4th Round
2023 $83 $96 $114 $202
2024 $97 $135 $190 $294
Increase: 17% 40% 67% 45%
Lower Bowl 1st Round 2nd Round 3rd Round 4th Round
2023 $239 $275 $325 $579
2024 $311 $395 $554 $858
Increase: 30% 43% 70% 48%
Club Seats 1st Round 2nd Round 3rd Round 4th Round
2023 $429 $493 $584 $1,039
2024 $564 $716 $1,005 $1,555
Increase: 31% 45% 72% 50%

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Prices are up on average by 25 to 30 per cent in the first round, 40 to 45 per cent in the second round, a whopping 70 per cent in the third round and about 50 per cent in the fourth round.

There’s nothing like playoff hockey in Edmonton. Oil Country comes to life with some of the loudest and most passionate fans, which is what economists says helps drive premium prices.

“There’s a passion there and it’s supply and demand, like anything else,” said Moshe Lander, a sports economist with Concordia University who lives in Alberta.

Lander said he cheers on the Calgary Flames but is envious of the energy Edmonton fans bring to the games.

“Clearly the city loves the team and they’re pining for a Stanley Cup that they haven’t sniffed in 30 years.”

The Oil are having a good season: as of Thursday afternoon, they were second in the Pacific Division (13-7-0) and 10th overall in the NHL (43-23-4.)

“When the team is doing well, when everybody is hopeful and enthusiastic that they’re going to be able to go deep into the playoffs this time — rather than choke — then what they want is to be able to experience that.

‘There’s a limited number of entry points, and a limited number of seats. This is the price that balances supply with demand.”

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Lander said the 2024 prices are not unreasonable and in fact, were likely too low in 2023.

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“Simply put, it’s the price for success. When you have a team that is talented and that is expected to go far, you got to pay for the privilege of seeing a quality team.”

The loyalty and energy of the crowd in Edmonton is what drew Manitoba resident Jesse Martin to become a fan himself in 1998, two years after Winnipeg lost its former team when the Jets relocated to Phoenix.

“I was looking for a team and I would say this: it wasn’t the greatest player that made me a fan of Edmonton. What made me a fan of the Edmonton Oilers was the crowd, the fans,” Martin said from his basement decked in orange and blue decor, and sports memorabilia.

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“Watching through the TV and seeing the chilling atmosphere and the loudness, it just echoed through the speakers and it would give you goosebumps.”

“It’s really, truly the blue-collar fans in Edmonton that made me a fan.”

Martin is sure the Oilers will go all the way this year. In fact, he’s so confident, he’s already booked an AirBnB in Edmonton during the time when the third round is expected to happen.

“I wanted to go to the round three where it was going to be the real excitement, the push to get to the cup, the chance of a lifetime to be part of something like that.”

Martin said it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip so he’s willing to pay a premium for that experience, but he also recognizes average Albertans may struggle to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for one night of entertainment.

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The passion of the fans kept the Oilers in Edmonton when the team was at risk of being sold in the 1900s, Martin said, making reference to when a local group of 35 individuals and companies came together to buy the team from former owner Peter Pocklington.

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The fans also stood by the Oilers when it endured a playoff drought lasting more than a decade, Martin said. While he recognizes the hockey team is a business that wants a profit, it shouldn’t be at the expense of pricing out those loyal to the Oil.

“You can’t take the your diehard, blue-collar, real fans out of the game. They have to be part of that. You have to have a price for them. It’s not to say we can’t have expensive seats and of course, every round is going to be a little bit higher.

“But there is a limit where you got to say, ‘We do need these fans.’ We want these fans to enjoy and embrace all of us because they kept us afloat.”

Lander said the Oilers aren’t necessarily charging the highest dollar possible, but rather analyzing section-by-section, row-by-row, seat-by-seat, to find a middle ground price that appeals to the greatest number of customers in order to maximize profits.

“In the past, teams were not as scientific when it came to ticket pricing and they didn’t necessarily have the technology to be able to process the data to figure out what the proper pricing is.

“Teams have gotten a lot smarter about this and it’s not an Edmonton phenomenon. It’s a professional sports phenomenon.”

Lander said the numbers speak for themselves.

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“If the arena is full, the prices aren’t too high. There are 18,000 people that are able to pay that price to get in.”

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Edmonton Oilers take on LA Kings, in what could be a playoff preview

Global News reached out to the Oilers Entertainment Group, which declined to comment for this story.

The Oilers host the Los Angeles Kings in a key Pacific Division matchup Thursday night. The Kings have won four straight and are just three points back of the Oilers.

With a dozen games to go in the season, who makes the playoffs is still anybody’s game.

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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