The Florida Panthers put tickets on sale for the two guaranteed home games of their second-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday morning.
The tickets, with the cheapest seat in the house going for $175, are close to being sold out.
For fans of the visiting Maple Leafs, however, the Panthers put up a big stop sign.
Or, at least, a yield sign.
Tickets being sold on the team’s official (for now) TicketMaster portal were limited to those having a billing address in the United States.
The team issued a warning on the site under ‘Important Event Info.’
It read: FLA Live Arena is located in Sunrise, Florida. Sales to this event will be restricted to residents of the United States. Residency will be based on credit card billing address. Orders by residents outside of the United States will be cancelled without notice and refunds given.
Team president Matthew Caldwell told FHN on Monday that the Panthers have not released the full ticket inventory just yet — so more tickets will be hitting the market in the coming days.
The initial offering was limited to fans south of the Canadian border — but the team plans to drop that restriction as early as Tuesday.
“We’re not sold out yet, but we could be if we wanted to be and we will be,’’ Caldwell said. “For the first 24 hours or so, we’re trying to restrict the sales for our Florida fans. It is just an access thing so our fans can get tickets. We are going to allow tickets to be sold to Toronto fans eventually.’’
Because of the team’s ‘dynamic pricing’ — think how airlines raise prices based on availability and demand — this is probably as cheap as tickets will be.
“The prices,’’ Caldwell said, “are going to go up.’’
The Panthers are not the first team in the NHL or NBA in trying to limit ticket sales to keep visiting teams out, but this is the first time Florida has done so.
This is, after all, just the second time in the mobile ticket era the Panthers have advanced to the second round.
When the Panthers made their run to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, if fans wanted a ticket, they had to stand in line at places like Blockbuster Music, Spec’s, Sears, Peaches or Eckerd Drugs to physically purchase them.
The Panthers were obviously trying to keep Canadian fans from buying their tickets by placing the restrictions on a credit card billing address in the United States — but other teams have been far more restrictive.
During a Chicago-Nashville playoff series a few years back, the Predators tried to thwart an invasion of visiting teams by limiting ticket sales to the state of Tennessee.
Chicago fans found a way around the ticket ban just as Toronto fans will fill FLA Live Arena for Game 3 (likely on Saturday night for Hockey Night in Canada) and Game 4.
The Panthers, Caldwell said, did not want to limit ticket sales to billing addresses within the state because there are plenty of snowbirds in South Florida who support the Panthers and may have a permanent address somewhere else in the U.S.
“We do not want to restrict them after they have been coming to our games all year,” he said. “We just wanted to make sure Panthers fans had access and that doesn’t mean all of our fans have Florida billing addresses. Moreso than Nashville or even Tampa, we have a lot of transplants and folks who live here but also have residences outside of Florida.’’
Toronto fans can also find plenty of tickets available — at a marked up price — on the secondary ticket market, which the Panthers do not control.
There are plenty ready to help out the average Toronto fan who is willing to fly south and catch a couple of games in Sunrise because getting a ticket in Toronto without having to refinance your mortgage is near impossible.
While some local fans may complain about the prices of postseason tickets in South Florida, they were the lowest of any team in the playoffs in the opening round and most likely will be near the bottom for the NHL’s Elite Eight.
Tickets on StubHub for Game 3 are starting at $192 as of Monday afternoon — before fees.
“The prices are higher than the regular season but that has to be expected,’’ Caldwell said. “But our pricing is still reasonable to other cities — especially Toronto.”
And, for those who worry about the crowd being overrun by visiting fans, that’s just the nature of life in South Florida.
Boston fans showed up en masse for Games 3 and 4 in the opening round and the atmosphere was electric. Not as charged up, perhaps, than the win-or-die Game 6, but all three crowds were at, over or near capacity.
The Panthers are expecting to have crowds in excess of 20,000 for Games 3 and 4 of this series with standing room only tickets also in the plans.
“I am so proud of this market and the fans here,” Caldwell said. “We always knew ‘if we build it, they will come.’ We saw signs of it early on, we have seen this market respond in the past. These past couple of years have really been exciting and that Game 6 was the best crowd I have ever seen — anywhere. That was incredible.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (ATL2) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
- TV/Streaming: ESPN, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: Tuesday at Toronto, 7 (ESPN); Game 2: Thursday at Toronto, 7 (TNT); Remainder of Schedule: TBA
- How They Got Here: Toronto d. Tampa Bay 4-2; Florida d. Boston 4-3
- Season Series (Toronto won 3-1): Maple Leafs 5, @Panthers 4 OT (Jan. 17); @Maple Leafs 6, Panthers 2 (Mar. 23); Panthers 3, @Maple Leafs 2 OT (March 29); Maple Leafs 2, @Panthers 1 OT (April 10)
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Toronto leads 48-36-7, 7 ties
- Postseason History: First Meeting