Looking for playoff tickets? It’ll be harder than last year

Friday, April 13, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 15
By John Glennon

One of the toughest sports tickets in Nashville last year will be even harder for many fans to get their hands on this year. Such is the popularity of the Predators as the NHL’s playoffs get underway.

The Predators had already started their lengthy sellout streak when the postseason began in 2017, but ticket demand wasn’t quite as great at that point as Nashville had just squeaked into the playoffs and wasn’t necessarily expected to be around too long.

There were an estimated 3,500 game tickets available to non-season ticket holders estimated that at the start of the 2017 playoffs, says Nat Harden, the team’s vice president of ticket sales.

But the Preds’ historic run to the Stanley Cup Final last June and the team’s record-breaking regular season in 2017-18 have changed everything.

Nashville’s season-ticket base has grown so much that Harden expects only a couple hundred tickets will be made available – in lottery-like fashion – to fans hoping to buy individual-game playoff tickets.

The Preds could have sold those few hundred seats to fans still wanting to buy season tickets, but the franchise wanted to keep at least some tickets available to the general public.

“The truth is, we could probably sell the building out twice over again,” Harden says. “But I think you have to make sure you offer tickets in the most fair and equitable way to all the people that want them.

“It’s interesting for me, someone who’s been trying to be as creative as possible and to sell as many tickets as possible for the last 20 years. Now, instead of having to do everything we can to sell the building out, it’s more about managing inventory correctly and making sure everyone gets their fair share of tickets.

“It’s a great feeling. I like this much better than the other way.”

The Predators cut their season ticket list off at 14,000 this year, again in order to leave some seats available for the general public. Almost all those season ticket holders exercised their options to buy playoff tickets, so that group alone will fill the majority of Bridgestone Arena, which has a hockey capacity of 17,113.

“If you commit to a full season ticket, you’re always going to have the most benefits and highest priority, get first crack at playoffs,” Harden adds. “That will never change. That’s really the foundation of the organization.”

Another 900 fans joined the waiting list for regular-season tickets this year, so they were given access to purchase playoff tickets as well.

Throw in the fact that the Predators have to reserve more seats – for home and visiting players, for league officials and for media – in the playoffs than the regular season, and you can understand how there won’t be many tickets remaining.

The Predators have instituted a lottery-like system to determine just which fans will get a chance to purchase those remaining individual-game tickets.

Those interested must do so by signing up via Ticketmaster for the new Smashville Verified Fan program. If a particular fan is selected, he or she will be notified at 10 a.m. on game day of the opportunity to buy a ticket.

“It’s something they’ve been doing in the concert business a lot, but not as much in sports,” Harden explains.

“It serves a couple of purposes: It keeps bots from buying up all the single-game tickets, so Nashville fans can purchase them. And we can also make sure that – say if you got two tickets to the first game – that someone else is able to purchase tickets to the next game. It gives more people the ability to come.”

What are the odds of winning a chance to buy individual-game tickets?

“I couldn’t throw an exact number at it,” Harden says. “But I do know that last year for the Western Conference Finals, we put up 100 tickets at $15 for the day of the game. We had over 25,000 hits on Ticketmaster within a 24-hour period after putting them up.

“And that was last season.”

Reach John Glennon at glennonsports@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.