Hockey fight: Seattle’s season ticket sales pits owners against scalpers

Mar 5, 2018, 5:47 AM | Updated: 1:36 pm
(File, Associated Press)
(File, Associated Press)
LISTEN: Hockey fight: Seattle’s season ticket sales pits owners against scalpers

Even the most optimistic local hockey boosters did not expect last Thursday’s outpouring of enthusiasm at the prospect of a Seattle NHL team: More than 25,000 season-ticket deposits collected in one hour, all of it in $500 to $1,000 increments.

NHL Seattle gets to 25K season ticket deposits in first hour

But hidden within the validation that the 60-minute, $13-million score provided to the expansion-minded league is something NHL team bosses see as a menace, almost as a form of malicious code in the financial software:

Secondary market brokers. Or as they are more commonly known, scalpers.

The team is so concerned about scalpers within the pool of depositors in Seattle, they are working with database analysts who will spend the next five days combing through the list of season-ticket hopefuls to eradicate known or suspected brokers.

“We will find them,” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group which is redeveloping Key Arena and will be investors in the new team should the city get a franchise. “Trust me, we will find them.”

“We are working aggressively with Ticketmaster to make sure scalpers don’t swallow up all of the supply.”

Good luck with that said ticket brokers interviewed about last week’s season ticket deposits. All three asked to remain anonymous to protect their businesses. Two of the three brokers interviewed had put down multiple deposits through intermediaries. And a third said he could have easily if he wanted to.

“There are so many ways around their systems,” he said. “You might get caught with a couple but not everything.”

From using relatives’ names, address and credit cards to establishing P.O. boxes as fake office “suites” for mailing addresses to using hard-to-track gift cards, scalpers said they generally stay a step ahead of teams and ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster.

One Seattle ticket broker who has been doing business in Seattle for 15 years said it is a shame they even have to hide. While owners blame the scalpers for driving up prices, he said, the teams’ real interest hardly is altruistic: A few years ago, sports teams (and their primary ticket sellers) decided they also wanted to own the lucrative secondary market.

Noted another broker: “Remember: They are not trying to stop scalping; they are trying to stop anyone else scalping but themselves.”

Much of this came to a head in federal court 2015 in StubHub Vs. The Golden State Warriors. The secondary ticket broker was unhappy that the Warriors — which was at that time becoming one of the hottest tickets in the NBA — required season tickets holders to resell only through Ticketmaster.

In fact, the team threatened existing season ticket holders that they could have their season tickets revoked if they resold tickets through unapproved resellers such as StubHub. The ticket broker saw a sharp decline in income so it sued under antitrust statutes.

Ultimately, the case was thrown out of court, but pro sports teams have steadily won legal disputes over whether season tickets should be considered real property such as a home or, as teams view it, a leased privilege such as an apartment.

Generally, the lease standard has prevailed.

“But as you notice, StubHub hardly is out of business,” said a former broker who just recently quit the business. “There are tickets out there for resale. But the teams are making it harder for us to get blocks of season tickets from season ticket holders.”

Leiweke sees control of the ticket market as “protection” for fans who are not in the highest income brackets. “We want this to be about the fans. And we want those tickets to remain affordable.”

On Monday, the Oak View Group capped season ticket deposits at 33,000.

The prospective team owners hope, Leiweke said, to have hundreds if not thousands of same-day tickets available near the $60 range, below the NHL-wide average of $85 a seat. He said the local group taking tight control the secondary market will help ensure that. Similar to the Warriors’ model, the team will require reselling through approved channels.

“We don’t want anything to dampen fan enthusiasm,” he said.

Scalpers counter that the people who purchase their tickets are no less enthusiastic. If they were not, the tickets go unsold or sold at a loss. Apple does not keep you from freely reselling your iPhone, he said.

“What makes tickets so special?” he asked.

Local News

king county, omicron...
MyNorthwest Staff

King County omicron patient did not report recent travel, suggesting local spread

King County public health shared more information about the local omicron case. The patient did not travel recently and is experiencing mild illness.
1 day ago
Daylight Saving Time, Standard Time...
Nick Bowman

New bill to keep Washington in standard time provides way around need for federal approval

After two years of waiting, state lawmakers will soon consider a proposal to keep Washington in standard time year-round.
1 day ago
Tacoma single family zoning...
Nick Bowman

Tacoma approves landmark bill doing away with single-family zoning label

Tacoma City Council voted Tuesday to approve the first phase of its ambitious "Home in Tacoma" plan to reimagine single-family zoning. 
1 day ago
Tukwila shooting...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Teen hurt, baby in critical condition after Tukwila shooting

A teenage boy and a toddler are in the hospital after they were shot in Tukwila early Wednesday.
1 day ago
Kshama Sawant recall...
Nick Bowman

Late tallies likely to take Kshama Sawant recall vote down to the wire

A recall vote for Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant will likely come all the way down to the wire when it's all said and done.
1 day ago
Kshama Sawant recall, Recall Sawant...
MyNorthwest Staff

Gap narrows in attempt to recall Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant

Results have narrowed in an attempt to recall Seattle District 3 Councilmember Kshama Sawant. The no votes closed the gap with 49.69%. The recall effort sits at 50.31% -- just 246 votes apart.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles


COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Hockey fight: Seattle’s season ticket sales pits owners against scalpers