Need two? Tickets still available for many NHL openers

Hockey arenas are putting down their sheets of ice this week in preparation for the 2009-10 NHL season; and while many box offices and ticket offices have been busy selling season packages, the usually bankable sellout for the home opener isn't the case in certain markets.

As of Thursday night with a search on Ticketmaster, we were able to find plenty of tickets at affordable prices available to the general public.

New York Islanders: Saturday night will be the first game in a pivotal season for the franchise. Their No. 1 overall pick and future face of the franchise, John Tavares(notes), is debuting after a summer full of hype. But even with that buzz -- and a visit by Sidney Crosby(notes) and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins -- the game was not sold out as of Wednesday. To speed things up, the Islanders sent an email to fans earlier this week that offered fans the chance to buy a package consisting of an "End Zone VIP" seat and a John Tavares RBK t-shirt for $149.95. On their website, the promo page noted "Limited Seats Still Available in All Sections."

Phoenix Coyotes: After a tumultuous summer and a still uncertain future in Phoenix, the Coyotes are doing all they can continue growing the sport in the desert and showing that there is a loyal fan base that can support the team. For their home opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets next Saturday all lower bowl tickets are said to be sold out, while upper bowl ducats are advertised for $15 a pop for their opening night white out after the team cut prices last week. At last report, there are around 1,000 tickets left unsold for the game.

Colorado Avalanche: The Denver Post's Adrian Dater reported that as of Wednesday afternoon, "several hundred" tickets were still available for last night's Joe Sakic(notes) Night at Pepsi Center, which was pretty astounding considering how much No. 19 meant to that franchise. But Colorado spoiled Dany Heatley's(notes) debut for San Jose with a 5-2 win and the official attendance was a sold-out arena of 18,007.

Carolina Hurricanes: There are still tickets available for the Eastern Conference runner-up's home opener against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night, but the team told us this morning "we'll be sold out."

Nashville Predators: Via Dirk Hoag at On The Forecheck, there are still tickets available for the Preds' opener next week (Oct. 8) against the Avalanche.

Florida Panthers: Upper level 400 section seats are available for $75 each when the Panthers return home from Finland to open up Bank Atlantic Center next Saturday against the New Jersey Devils. The team is holding a ticket sale beginning today through tomorrow while the Panthers are in Helsinki. with packages 50 percent off.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Upper bowl seats at $44 a pair can be had, and some in the lower bowl are still for sale, as the Minnesota Wild come to town tomorrow night at Nationwide Arena.

There are also upper level tickets available for the New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers and Buffalo Sabres home openers as of Friday morning.

This is just a small sample of the 30 home openers around the NHL and I'm sure there are tickets available to other opening nights. You wouldn't expect all 82 games for all 30 NHL franchises to sell out, not with the fickle nature of fans or in these economic times. You would, however, expect the first home game of the season -- many being sold as part of discounted packages -- to show a filled arena.

The current economic crisis, coupled with disenchanted fans, are surely having an impact on ticket sales all throughout sports. In a time when athlete salaries are rising annually while Joe Fan's income and savings are dwindling, sports teams need to find innovative ways to sell their seats to fan bases that are rearranging their personal budgets -- which frequently do not feature large "entertainment" budget anymore.

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