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Will an NHL salary cap lead to lower ticket prices?


Question: Will an NHL salary cap lead to lower ticket prices?
Since the 2004-05 lockout began, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and a few team owners have been adding the phrase "affordable ticket prices" whenever they discuss the benefits of a salary cap. In previous seasons, several teams pointed to high players' salaries as the reason when announcing a hike in ticket prices.

The notion that the price of an NHL game would drop if payrolls drop is very dubious.

Like any other commodity, an NHL ticket is priced according to supply and demand. A team that sells out every game will almost certainly raise ticket prices on a regular basis, because it can. A team playing to a half-empty building will eventually have no option but to cut the cost of a ticket.

How else do you explain the fact that the Buffalo Sabres announced cuts to ticket prices for 2004-05, even though they increased their payroll over the summer? The Sabres have too many empty seats to fill.

In fact, figures throughout the NHL suggest their is little relationship between ticket prices and salaries. The New York Rangers, for example, have posted the highest payrolls in NHL history in recent years. But their average ticket price ranked 12th in the league in 2003-04, partly because the Rangers have to keep prices reasonable to compete in a sports-saturated market.

Several secondary factors might influence prices, and players' salaries might be one of them. That's about as far as the relationship goes.

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