Tim Leiweke is making good on his promise to free up a few more Toronto Maple Leafs tickets for regular fans.
As part of the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. chief executive officer's commitment to get the general public into more NHL games and respond to the desires of the company's season-ticket holders, MLSE notified its hockey subscribers Friday they will have the option of declining two preseason Leafs games at the Air Canada Centre next season.
The season-ticket holders who take the option will be able to apply a credit for the two games to their regular-season package, which will cut the cost of one of the most-expensive tickets in the NHL. Those preseason tickets will then be placed on sale to the public at a discount from regular-season prices.
This season's price range for regular-season Leafs games (before any discounts for subscribers) is roughly $133.75 to $533.75.
(The team introduced tiered pricing this season, which means the prices are not the same for every game. For example, a Montreal Canadiens game on a Saturday is more expensive than the Nashville Predators on a Monday.)
MLSE officials declined to say if subscribers could pick the games they do not want, or if two games would be designated.
MLSE is also offering relief to the season-ticket holders for its NBA team. The Toronto Raptors are cutting the number of preseason games they will play at the ACC this fall from four to two. Those games will be played in other Canadian cities.
MLSE officials said they are not yet in position to name the cities that will play host to the Raptors games.
Since he became president and CEO of MLSE last June, Leiweke said he wanted to find ways to get ordinary fans into more Leafs games. Not only are the prices for tickets and luxury boxes prohibitive for many NHL fans but almost all of the 19,000-plus seats are held by season-ticket holders, most of them corporations.
For many years, season-ticket holders were vocal in their dislike of the company's practice of forcing subscribers to buy a 45-game package of 41 regular-season games and four preseason games. They especially did not like having to pay full price for the preseason games, which feature a lot of minor-league and rookie players.
"For the Leafs season-ticket holder, it's all really good news I think," said Dave Hopkinson, MLSE chief commercial officer, who oversees the sales and marketing departments. "Some of them don't want all the preseason games, and we get that."
Hopkinson said he isn't sure how many ticket holders will take advantage of the offer. For now, he is planning on an acceptance rate of about 50 per cent, which would make about 10,000 tickets available for two Leafs preseason games.
If the public does not snap up the tickets in large numbers, MLSE is prepared for the dip in revenue.
"The revenue really is secondary here," Hopkinson said. "This is the latest initiative to change our relationship with our season-ticket holders."
MLSE will introduce one other change for next season: The company will increase the price categories for seats to 17 from 12.
Some tickets will rise in price, depending on their location, while others will stay the same. For example, in the highest level of the upper bowl, the first row in the purple section will now cost more than the last row.