While on Twitter yesterday, I noticed an update on the Ottawa Senators official page with a tweet saying there was an open practice with the prospects at the Sensplex in Kanata and that that there would an autograph session after. The only catch to this is that you'd have to be a season ticket holder. This struck me as a little unfair. The practice was open to the general public, whether they were a regular ticket buyer or not, yet meeting the prospects immediately following the practices was restricted to only a select few.
This sort of thinking has been quite prevalent for at least as long as I remember and maybe comes down to time restraints or even maybe as a selling incentive for more people to want to choose the season ticket route for the added perks. Either way, it smacks of a raw deal for the rest of us.
Given the facts, season ticket holders get many other benefits, such as the chance to have their picture taken and get an autograph with a select player when they go pick up their tickets in early September. They also have an opportunity to meet many of the players mid season during a meet and greet that routinely centres around a skate on the ice and lunch with the owner and president Cyril Leeder.
Another season ending experience is the Shirts Off Our Back event where on the last home game of the year lucky season ticket holders get the jerseys worn by players and also get their jerseys signed and a photo with that player.
Compare that to the autograph sessions regular fans get way out in the East end at a car dealership with the same 3 or 4 injured reserves and fourth liners every year and something doesn't quite add up.
When an article came out earlier this year stating that many small market teams rely so heavily on federal funding to stay afloat, one would think teams like the Ottawa Senators would be reevaluating ways to bring the hockey experience to more fans, not alienating them by offering special incentives to some, but not others.
As a cross reference, the other hockey team in Ottawa, the junior level 67's have numerous autograph sessions throughout the season where most, if not all of the team participates. An even better example of small market teams catering to all fan demographics can be seen in Edmonton, Nashville and Minnesota, where the Oilers, Predators and Wild hold public skates for under $10 (with proceeds benefiting local children's hospitals) and free autograph sessions with the entire team.
Clearly there's a divide here and it's continued widening is of concern not only to me, but to countless other fans who just can't afford to pay thousands of dollars a year to be a part of the elite group of season ticket holders. In an era where revenue is on the rise, while small market teams still continue struggle to keep their heads above water, something has to give.