Let's get the full disclosure stuff out of the way early, because there is one caller to my radio show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan who was on my mind Tuesday, when Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. revealed Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors season-ticket prices will rise 2.5 per cent in 2013-14.
(And, yes, one of the partners in MLSE, along with BCE Inc., is the same company that owns the radio station, Rogers Communications Inc.)
Don't remember the name, but during the recent NHL lockout he said he hoped the NHL owners took the players to the cleaners so that ticket prices would be lower, allowing him to take his young son to an NHL game. He'd consumed the piffle ownership feeds fans during any sports labour dispute: that while the guys in the suits are on the side of the fans, it's those millionaire athletes and their insufferable salary demands that are driving the cost of pro sports beyond every fan.
Unhappy with my response, the caller e-mailed me to tell me I needed to stop believing all the "left wing" economists who believe the direct correlation between players salaries and ticket prices is overstated. Player salaries, the e-mailer assured me, drive ticket prices. Because that's what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says.
Fact: The NHL's salary cap falls next season from $70.2-million (pro-rated) in 2012-13, to $64.3-million (all currency U.S.) next season.
Fact: You will pay more to see the Maple Leafs, even if they lose every game from hereon in.
Fact: The NBA salary cap will once again be $58.044-million in 2013-14.
Fact: You will pay more to see the Raptors, even if general manager Bryan Colangelo returns to finish the NBA's version of Mr. Potato Head that has occupied his time for the better part of a decade. (Stop putting the ears where the eyes go, Bryan. They won't fit.)
In announcing the season-ticket increase, which was described as an "across the board inflationary increase," MLSE president Tom Anselmi pointed to cost increases as driving the decision, while it was noted that in the past five seasons the Leafs ticket prices have been "essentially flat, with a net cumulative increase of .5 per cent," while the Raptors have had a cumulative five-year decrease of 7.5 per cent.
So what is left for the average fan to hang on to? Not much.
Let's take this opportunity right now to tell you that the Toronto Blue Jays will raise ticket prices next season, even if the 2013 season doesn't end up in a World Series. Be thankful general manager Alex Anthopoulos didn't get his make-over done three weeks earlier. Had that happened, the increase would have been in place for this season, just as the advertising rate card for Blue Jays telecasts has been bumped up a couple of times this winter.
Hold out hope for a second NHL team in Toronto?
Even if the NHL moves another team into this area in the next 10 years, it won't allow Leafs prices to be cannibalized and the guess here is if there is a chance to rush in another team, new ownership in one of the Toronto suburbs would soon figure out they could charge a premium for location: That folks in the east end of the city would pay more to travel less to see an NHL game in Markham.
It is all about what the market will bear and the simple truth is MLSE believes you will pay more to see their product at the ACC.
History suggests it is right; the ACC platinum seat gods won't blink at this increase. The economic downturn didn't bite them hard enough to cut into their taste for okay sushi and mediocre hockey. And as for that fan backlash from the lockout? Yeah; how did that work out?
If there is any group that has the moral high-ground, here, it is Raptors fans: they've kept home attendance in the upper half of the NBA despite two years of directionless management and a lockout.
So about all that's left is to say God help the sports fan if the Leafs actually win anything.
You think the cost of mediocrity can be a kick in the pants? Wait until you see what the cost of success will be in Toronto.