Watching pro hockey not for the poor folk

Freelancer Mark Kihn wrote a great piece for us recently about what it was like to grow up as a hockey-mad kid in rural Manitoba in the 1970s. If you missed it, you can find it here.

As Mark often does, he sent along photos to illustrate the piece, including one of a ticket stub from a Chicago Blackhawks game he attended in 1979. What particularly caught my eye was the price of the ticket — $5.75.

Now I know that it was 1979, and prices have gone up a bit since then, but my goodness, that’s a far cry from what I’ve been told NHL tickets cost today.

I decided to do a little research to put it all into perspective, first by asking acquaintances who attend NHL games what they thought an equivalent ticket would cost today. One figured it would be at least $100 for a seat in the first balcony, and the other one said he paid $600 for three tickets when he and his two sons attended an Edmonton Oilers game last year.

And what should that $5.75 ticket be worth today? There’s lots of ways to calculate cost of living, but I decided to do it by looking at the increase in the minimum wage in Saskatchewan, which went up to $11.45 in 2020 from $3.50 in 1979.

Based on that, our $5.75 Chicago Blackhawks ticket from 1979 should be worth $18.80 today.

That’s a far cry from our low-ball estimate of $100 for a ticket today, even if we’re not worrying about the exchange rate.

Let’s put it another way. That ticket in 1979 would have taken a minimum wage earner in Saskatchewan roughly one and a half hours of work to pay for. Today’s low-ball estimate would require 8.75 hours — more than a day’s wages. And did I mention that that’s the low-ball estimate? It would probably take a lot more hours than that.

I went back to my hockey acquaintances for an opinion on what the heck is going on here.

One of them provided a thoughtful analysis of team profits and player salaries. The other one put it a bit more succinctly — “greedy owners.”

Whatever conclusion you may reach from this, attending pro hockey games is a very different pastime from what it once was — definitely not for the thin-of-wallet anymore.

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