November 12, 2003

Cornell Reacts to Harvard Hockey Ticket Policy

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Each year, members of the Lynah Faithful circle two dates on their calendars — the nights on which the men’s hockey team squares off against the Harvard Crimson. And while the game in Ithaca has always been the toughest ticket in town, a pass to this season’s Jan. 9 contest in Boston might be equally hard to come by. That is, unless, fans are willing to purchase the Crimson’s new Pick Four Pack.

Through tomorrow, the Harvard athletic ticket office will be selling a $44 package of tickets to four Crimson hockey games, featuring showdowns against Princeton (Nov. 14), Massachusetts (Dec. 14), Cornell (Jan. 9) and RPI (Feb. 13). Tickets to the Cornell-Harvard game are available only to Harvard undergraduates, season-ticket holders, and through the Pick Four Plan, which means that fans of the Red who are looking for single-game tickets might just be out of luck.

“As business, that’s a marketing ploy on their part,” Cornell Director of Athletic Tickets and Events Gene Nighman ’81 said of Harvard’s ticket-bundling scheme. “Their idea is that perhaps they can increase their sales dollars by making a package, and if people want to come to the Cornell game, then they have to buy all four games.

“That’s a marketing strategy. It’s strategic marketing for them. They’re looking to packaging to increase their bottom line.”

According to ECAC regulations, the home team must make at least 200 tickets available to the visiting school. While the Harvard ticket office has been generous to Cornellians in the past, often offering several hundred more tickets than the minimum, its policy has been different this season.

“The ECAC policy is that the home team must make 200 tickets available to the visiting school, so that’s what they’re doing,” Nighman said.

Nighman distributed half of the 200 tickets to the pep band, players and coaches, members of the Cornell Hockey Association, and students. Meanwhile, the remaining 100 tickets will be distributed by the Cornell Club of Boston through a lottery system among its members.

Yet, with just 200 single-game tickets available to the Lynah Faithful, which has a reputation of filling Bright Hockey Arena, fondly known in Cornell circles as “Lynah East”, many fans have been left scouring for game passes.

“A lot of disappointment,” Cornell Club of Boston President Karen Sehl ’76 said of the reaction of many club members. “A lot of people are trying to figure out how they can work around the system and get tickets.”

For years, Red hockey fans have transformed the Harvard home game into a Cornell party. Critics of the Pick Four Pack and Harvard’s ticket distribution policy claim that the Crimson is singling out Cornell and its fans. Yet, others believe that the new ticket policy may have more to do with Harvard’s recent hockey renaissance.

“I know that Harvard has improved tremendously and basically, Harvard is getting a bigger fan following and more local people are wanting to go to the games, so Harvard is catering to some degree more to their fans,” Nighman said. “They’re basically doing what Cornell has done for the last 20 years. Bottom line is, Cornell has always made it very difficult for other people to get into our games because we’ve always had such a big following.

“Now we’re getting to the point where ECAC hockey is becoming better and more and more popular, and other teams besides Cornell are developing a bigger fan base. So these other schools, these other rinks are getting more and more demand of their own constituency for tickets,” he continued. “So obviously, who are they going to take care of? They’re going to take care of their people more than they’re going to take care of visitors.”

Sehl agreed with that assessment.

“I don’t know that it’s [Harvard] attempting to hurt Cornellians as much as it’s them trying to please their alumni and students,” she said.

There may be hope, however, for fans wishing to attend the game. If ticket sales at the Harvard box office stagnate, Cornell might receive an extra lot of passes as the event nears.

“Bottom line is if were getting close to the game against Cornell, and they’re looking to sell seats, they’re going to help me out. If they’re not having problems selling seats, they’re not going to help me out. It’s supply and demand,” Nighman said. “The only incentive they have of granting Cornell more tickets is if they’re having trouble selling seats.”

“I’m in frequent contact with the Harvard ticket office,” Sehl said.

While many Cornellians are unsatisfied with the new ticket policy, they do agree that it is well within Harvard’s rights to limit sales to Red fans.

“There’s nothing that says that there has to be equity in ticket sales. There’s no law, there’s no legislation, there’s nothing that says there has to be equity in ticket sales,” Nighman said. “If they only want to sell tickets to alumni, or people currently enrolled, or staff, then that’s entirely their prerogative.”

Archived article by Alex Ip