NHL Tickets … For 14 Installments of 10 Bucks

If you needed any more proof that the economic downturn is starting to seep into sports, here it is: The Columbus Blue Jackets, who happen to not be one of the professional hockey teams on the verge of bankruptcy (see under: Coyotes, Phoenix) are offering a payment “installment” plan to help fans pay for seats at upcoming games. As the unpronounceable yet terrific Greg Wyshynski writes in YAHOO’s PUCK DADDY blog — which may soon double as the “sad economic news in sports blog” — this just can’t be a good sign.

blue jackets fans

(Blue Jackets vs. Predators. Actual attendance: 2)

According to the team’s web site, the “payment plan” starts on Dec. 29th after paying the initial $10 when the seats are purchased. And what do you get for your 150 clams? Tickets to three weekend games … in the upper bowl. Lower bowl seats are twice the price. Ouch.

That’s right, it takes installments of $20 just to see a hockey game in Ohio in decent seats. Sure, the Blue Jackets may be paying steep rent for their downtown Nationwide Arena, but there has to be a better way to get people in the door to some of the most attractive games on the schedule (they can’t sell weekend tickets? Really?) than installment plans of $10-20, right? Evidently not.

Columbus currently has the second-worst attendance in the league, right ahead of Nashville (Hockey! Now with George Strait sightings! Yeah!), proving once and again that while Columbus may have a faster growing population than Cleveland or Cincinnati, it’s an Ohio State town first, second, third and, on most days, fourth. After all, how can you go watch the Red Wings on a Saturday night if you’ve got to wait out the postgame presser to see if Beanie Wells actually twisted his ankle on a fourth quarter run?

Nationwide Arena

(Columbus’ Nationwide Arena: Definitely not recession proof.)

The plan probably isn’t the smartest thought out by Blue Jackets officials, either. The team already promotes a deal where, for $5 a pop, fans can show up three hours before game time of any mid-week games and get any remaining tickets in the upper bowl. That’s a whopping $45 savings for the inconvenience of seeing a game in the middle of the week (sounds like a deal, no?), and with unemployment rapidly on the rise in the capital of the Buckeye State, people won’t have to sneak out of work and walk to Nationwide Arena at 4:30 to get the cheap seats.

It just proves once again that hockey has become the place where David Stern’s worst ideas go to die … evidently the ones he gave the boot to when Gary Bettman bolted. Can you imagine the Charlotte Bobcats pimping a payment installment plan? Yeah, we don’t see it either. Of course, according to PUCK DADDY’s gleanings (via ESPN), the league could be at least one or two franchises lighter in the coming months (or have one or two more Canadian franchises, depending on how you read the Sabres and Coyotes situations) and is already poking around investing in the forthcoming European Super League, which could definitely, positively only be a precursor to expansion in Europe as American markets collapse. Remember, six teams are opening the 2009 season in Europe already. What are the odds one of them doesn’t come back.

More importantly, does anyone think they’ll have many takers for that Red Wings roadie to take on the Berlin Eise Bars?