A Toronto Raptors fan is suing the Raptors' ownership group for $1.6 million because it constructed a new row of front-row seats directly in front of what used to be his front-row seats in 2007.
The Raptors? They claim that Mark Michalkoff isn't so much a "Raptors fan" as he is a "Raptors season-ticket holder." The team hasn't responded to Michalkoff's complaints personally, while contending that he essentially purchased the ducats to re-sell through his ticket brokering business.
After a flurry of court filings, unsuccessful mediation and a lengthy discovery process over the past four years, Toronto businessman Mark Michalkoff's complaint against MLSE is heading to a courtroom.
A trial over the dispute is scheduled to start Nov. 15 in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto and is expected to last a week.
"All we were looking for was for MLSE to say they were sorry, but they didn't even answer us," said Michalkoff, who is suing MLSE for $1.6 million.
"Then they insult us by calling us scalpers in a counterclaim," he told the Star. "I'm ready to go to court and have it out. I don't think there's anything they can do to stop it now."
Rajani Kamath, an MLSE spokesperson, declined to comment."
Both sides, apparently, are going to have their work cut out for them.
Michalkoff may run a sort of ticket brokering program, but it seems pretty legal under his claims (which are more than likely bogus) that the 5 percent charge he takes from the companies that buy his Raptor tickets is just in place to cover the cost of shipping the tickets to the new buyers within the company gift cards his business creates. To the dollar, he claims, which makes this exercise (on paper, at least) a non-profit venture.
If this can be documented, and you've got to be pretty sure it can be (there is a reason these ticket brokers, illegal on some levels, stay in business for decades), then this can be explained away in court and the Raptors won't have much to support their claim that Michalkoff's reselling of Raptor tickets "was deliberate, intentional and done in blatant disregard for MLSE's rights."
Then again, there is no way that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment put any sort of language into its contract with Michalkoff that guaranteed that these seats would stay in the front row and/or unobstructed for the length of their deal.
The hack-y sports writer take would be to ask an Ontario judge to review the 41 home games a year the Raptors played during Michalkoff's time as a season-ticket holder. If he's present for, say, 21 of those? Then he makes the cut as a fan. Anything less and he's a broker. Also, this is a terrible idea.
Michalkoff is probably going to be on the outside (or second row) looking-in with this case, especially after he predated his demand for $1.6 million with a vague demand for "justice and a public apology" from MLSE.
You can't blame the Raptors or any other team from attempting to shoehorn more profits into their massive arenas. After all, even with the fans so close to the action and high-definition cameras at every turn, how many regulars do you see time and time again in front row seats at NBA games? Every night, there are new faces, even if the owners of those seats stay the same.
Which is why it isn't difficult to understand why the Raptors put the new front row in. They weren't really screwing over Raptor fans. They were screwing over the people that bought Raptor tickets as an investment.
(Note, the above picture does not include an image of Michalkoff. In fact, we're pretty sure that's Steve Schirripa, flanked by a person Steve probably thinks is Tom Arnold, Charlie Sheen in his "Iron Chef" costume, a young Justin Bieber, an old Mark-Paul Gosslear wondering how mobile phones got so small, and obviously Mike D'Antoni. Also seated in the front row is author J.D. Salinger, in a photo taken before his death in January of 2010, wearing some sort of felt dinosaur costume in order to preserve his anonymity.)