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NHL Ticket Holders Lack Interest Guarantees on Season Payments

By Scott Soshnick
September 19, 2012 12:08 PM EDT 2 Comments

National Hockey League fans are at the mercy of teams when it comes to refunds and interest on ticket payments if games are lost to a lockout this season.

The NHL, with annual revenue of about $3 billion, is allowing all 30 clubs to set their own refund policies, according to Matt Majka, chief operating officer of the Minnesota Wild, which is applying interest toward future ticket purchases.

That approach is opposite the one taken by the National Basketball Association, which ordered clubs to pay interest on season-ticket money for the 16 games lost to a labor dispute last season. The National Football League ordered its teams to adopt a refund-only policy during last year’s lockout, which didn’t cost any regular-season games.

“If hockey perceives itself as a major-league sport, then I think following prevailing business standards of its competitors makes sense,” Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, said in an e-mail. “The NBA set the standard in this case and NHL teams should be capable of offering the same deal even if the League doesn’t mandate it.”

The Wild won’t offer interest if customers want a refund. They will give fans who have paid in full credit for missed games plus 10 percent annual percentage rate interest on the dollar value of those tickets. The credit can only be applied to future games or subsequent season renewal.

“The decision on how to interact with fans is left to the clubs,” Majka said in a telephone interview.

Cancel Games

The New York Rangers will announce their refund policy once games are canceled, spokeswoman Stacey Escudero said via e-mail. The Washington Capitals, owned by Ted Leonsis, who also controls the NBA’s Wizards, are giving fans 1 percent interest on money in team accounts.

A six-month certificate of deposit offers less than a 1 percent return, according to bankrate.com.

Commissioner Gary Bettman and his deputy, Bill Daly, are the only NHL officials permitted to comment on labor matters, spokesman John Dellapina said. Neither was immediately available to talk about ticket money, according to Dellapina.

The NHL season is scheduled to begin on Oct. 11.

The NBA ordered clubs to pay 1 percent interest for lost games. The Miami Heat, champions in the NBA’s lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, offered season-ticket holders an option to receive discounted playoff tickets and a 5 percent payment in exchange for keeping renewal deposits in a team account.

Kim Stone, an executive vice president with the Heat, said at the time that the NBA’s mandate was “just good business.”

NFL Plan

The NFL, the most-popular U.S. sport annual revenue of more than $9 billion, allowed clubs to set their own policies on interest for ticket payments.

NHL owners locked out players after the collective bargaining agreement expired on Sept. 15. The owners are seeking a reduction in the percentage of revenue paid to players, who got 57 percent under the old contract.

The NBA also offered refunds with interest during the 204- day lockout that ended in January 1999. That season was shortened to 50 games from 82, the first time games that counted were lost to labor strife.

To contact the reporter on this story: Scott Soshnick in New York at ssoshnick@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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