Should NHL Teams Try This Ticketing Tactic From MLB’s Miami Marlins?

Aug 15, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Fans hold up K signs as Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara (22) walks off the field after striking out San Diego Padres first baseman Josh Bell (not pictured) to end the top of the third inning at loanDepot park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 15, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Fans hold up K signs as Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara (22) walks off the field after striking out San Diego Padres first baseman Josh Bell (not pictured) to end the top of the third inning at loanDepot park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Baseball season is winding down. The closer America’s past time gets to packing up their balls and bats for the year the closer we get to seeing Canada’s pastime hit the ice. Some MLB teams are gearing up for a World Series run, while others are still fighting for a chance and making every game count. Some teams are already looking forward to next year while others are in the murky middle.

The Miami Marlins are one of those teams stuck in between “will we make the playoffs” and “should I take my Miami Heat jersey out of the closet yet”? To keep fans in the seats, the Marlins have found an interesting way to sell tickets by letting fans name their price. They call it “Make Your Pitch” and essentially allows fans to pick seats and submit offers for tickets. If that offer is accepted by the team, fans get the seats at the price they decided.

The Miami Marlins are letting fans name their price for end of season tickets. It’s a cool idea, but one we don’t see working as well in the NHL and here is why.

As soon as we heard the news, we started thinking of how great that would be for us hockey fans. Why pay “face value” and all those fees like a chump when we could go to the virtual box office like a member of “Shark Tank” and set the prices ourselves? Like most business ideas stemming from the world of other professional sports, we wanted to see how well this would work in the world of the NHL.

Like with most other things, the various differing market factors between hockey and baseball come into play. Baseball is more or less in the “lame duck” part of its season. The Marlins have had trouble selling tickets for years, even in a season like this where they have a shot at the playoffs they rank second to last in league attendance.

Maybe if there’s an NHL team that’s out of it post trade deadline and just wants to get some fans in the seats before the regular season ends they could try this. The most important thing in sports business is getting fans in seats. It’s better for a team’s bottom line to sell a ticket at below market price, even way below market price, but have a fan in that seat who pays something for it than have it go empty. Remember, once that seat is filled, that person will most likely be spending money on concessions and souvenirs, all helping a team’s bottom line, while providing the all-important aesthetic of non-empty seats for the television broadcast.

Another difference is that baseball stadiums have a much higher capacity than their hockey counterparts. The average capacity of an MLB stadium is 45,000 seats. The average capacity of an NHL stadium is 15,000-22,000.

Baseball does have a much longer season, 162 regular season games compared to the NHL’s 82 games, but that might not make much of a difference here. The Marlins only had five regular season games left when this deal came into effect. Remember before when we hypothetically said an NHL team could start this deal after the trade deadline (the trade deadline is the closest thing we have to an expectation of a team putting on its chances for this season)? The New York Rangers have ten post deadline games (we already had their schedule open on our computer, so we’ll just them for this example). If you do the math (ten times an average hockey capacity, which we set at 18,500) you get 185,000 available tickets.

Using the Marlins as our example with five games and an average stadium capacity of 45,000 seats you get 225,000 available seats. Is that amount bigger than our NHL counterparts? Yes, but considering how much larger of a capacity and games there are to sell it’s not as much as we initially expected.

There’s a reason the players themselves might be against this. This “name your price” program most likely ends with tickets being sold at less than face value. If the NHL did the same, and tickets were sold by the team at less than face value, it could throw off the hockey related revenue for cap projections. Remember, players are already dealing with paying off escrow from this happening in the COVID seasons. This would matter if the team themselves sold seats at below face value. If a third party site (Stubhub, for example) sells tickets below face value that means someone had already paid the team full value and is themselves taking the loss, not the team.

This would all come down to fan demand. If there was an NHL team in the same position as the Marlins, seemingly in the “lame duck” part of the season and trying to sell more tickets that otherwise would have gone unsold, this could work for them. An NHL team wouldn’t want to commit to the idea too early, however.

What if a team ends up being better than expected? I saw this personally last year when my New Jersey Devils exceeded expectations and made a playoff push. Those seats I’d buy off Stubhub for $5 on game day the season before where in much smaller supply and lot more expensive once the Devils started putting together wins.

One team that immediately came to mind as a potential beneficiary of this idea was the Arizona Coyotes, who have long struggled to sell seats. Arizona is expected to be better this season, but not guaranteed a playoff spot, almost like the Marlins. Then we remembered they’ll play this season in the less than 5,000 seat venue Mullet Arena. Maybe a plan like this would have helped them all those years at Gila River Arena.

Hockey, unlike baseball, has more teams that sell out and have packed buildings regardless pf their place in the standings. Remember back in 2015 when the hockey world panicked because the Toronto Maple Leafs saw their 13 year sell out streak end? The Leafs finished that year playoff-less, like they did a majority of their sellout streak, but still finished top ten in attendance that season. It’s hard to imagine any hockey team north of the border, no matter how many losses they pile on, having to resort to this tactic to sell tickets.