On Wednesday, a Sports Illustrated report pointed out that the Tampa Bay Lightning will be restricting online ticket sales for playoff games to those with billing addresses inside of Florida.
Although rare, this isn't the first case of location-based restrictions on NHL tickets. The Nashville Predators have done this in the past, notably making tickets for home games against the Blackhawks only available through multi-game plans. The Preds have also tried to keep Blackhawks fans out of the Bridgestone Arena by banning sales to certain Illinois ZIP codes.
While that may seem extreme, the Bolts have taken it to another level. Let's hope you're not a fan of another team. Tampa's also restricting what fans may wear in some of the Amalie Arena's more premium seating sections:
"Chase Club and Lexus Lounge ticket holders - please note that for all 2015 NHL Playoff Games at Amalie Arena, only Tampa Bay Lightning team logos will be permitted in these areas. Fans wearing visiting team logos will be asked to remove them while in the Chase Club and Lexus Lounge areas."
The intent here is obvious: Keep opposing fans out of your arena during high pressure games. If you can fill your house with your fans, that home-ice advantage gets a little bit better. It also cuts down on drunken fans swinging fists at each other, although that can also happen when your own fans get a little too drunk.
I've always found away support to be fun. Annoying, but a good addition to the atmosphere. I've been to plenty of sporting events as a visiting fan. Showing up to Yankee Stadium in Red Sox gear is a great rush, especially when your team wins. The town I live in got an expansion team in the Federal League this past season, and we had fans coming in to this small corner of Massachusetts from as far as Dayton, Ohio and the upper reaches of New York, just to cheer on their teams. On such a small level, they usually kept to themselves in the stands. But this is something that's fairly easy to do on larger levels as well. Look at soccer around the world. The away support usually has its own cordoned off section. This wouldn't be too hard to do in the NHL, limiting purchases outside of your local area to certain sections of the arena.
It's not just the other team's fans that are affected by this move, though. Access to out of market hockey games is much greater than it used to be, and kids are starting to grow up being fans of teams outside of their local area. The playoffs start in a few weeks, coinciding with April vacation week for many northern schools, and I'd bet that there's a few families heading south that would've liked to take in some playoff hockey while down in the warmth.
While I'm a Bruins fan, my AHL loyalties lie with the Syracuse Crunch, who have been feeding top-quality players to Tampa for several years now. With the big club suffering a rash of injuries lately, a lot of the guys I'm rooting for in Syracuse are being called up and are contributing. And as I mentioned earlier, with a Gamecenter subscription, I can watch Tampa games and root these guys on whenever I want, and I do quite frequently. It's a bit disheartening to think that if I wanted to go down to cheer them on in the playoffs, I'm being told by the Lightning that I can't, because I don't live in Florida. That certainly isn't my fault. It'd probably cheaper to fly to Tampa and go to a game than to get Bruins playoff tickets, too.