Dave LeGarde: Ticket access too easy for Gopher fans

University of Minnesota hockey fans made their annual journey to Duluth this past weekend, invading the DECC for a WCHA series against the University of Minnesota Duluth which often resembled home games for our visitors from the Twin Cities.

University of Minnesota hockey fans made their annual journey to Duluth this past weekend, invading the DECC for a WCHA series against the University of Minnesota Duluth which often resembled home games for our visitors from the Twin Cities.

It's no secret that Gopher puck enthusiasts travel well. For years they've shown up in droves to support what is arguably college hockey's most storied program. This time they went home happy as their team squeaked out a pair of 3-2 victories in front of capacity crowds.

There were a variety of complaints from UMD followers as the series unfolded.

An apparent shorthanded Bulldog goal in the first period of Friday's contest was allowed, then disallowed; touching off a bizarre scene that I can't remember ever seeing in hockey.

For fifteen minutes, both coaches took turns arguing vehemently about the call.


The head referee, in a scene more comical than anything, seemed to change his mind with each discussion and there were moments when both sides were convinced they had gotten their way.

Eventually, the decision favored the Gophers and the game-tying score was waved off. Unfortun-ately, the long delay interrupted the flow of a very entertaining game and also shifted attention away from the teams. Too many spectators focused the remainder of their energy on the officials, particularly when the Minnesota net was knocked off its moorings during a Bulldog flurry in the final seconds.

Saturday night brought a surprisingly sedate atmosphere. There were times, particularly during the second period, when the quiet building seemed more fit for a chess match than hockey. The visiting fans finally brought the place to life when the Gophers rallied late and won in overtime, much to the chagrin of a UMD crowd frustrated with early-season struggles.

There's little doubt that Bulldog fans bristle when the Gophers and their legion of worshipers come to town. Loud, proud and often boorish, they aren't afraid to remind the opposition of their tradition and national championship success.

My question has always been: Why is it so easy for them to get tickets here?

For several years now, a user-friendly system to buy single-game hockey tickets has been implemented by the DECC and UMD. Regrettably, this system allows for non-Bulldog backers (specifically Gopher and Wisconsin Badger fans) to get their hands on them without much trouble.

Here's how it works: On the first Monday morning in October fans are allowed to purchase individual game tickets. This can be done in-person, by phone or through the Internet. Tickets to all home games are available.

The in-person sale is not a problem. Tickets are sold at the DECC and UMD where both places do a great job of organizing crowds smoothly and efficiently.


Occasionally a few stray fans with a different rooting interest will show but are usually far outnumbered by Northlanders.

The real issue is that people anywhere can access Ticketmaster by phone or online to secure seats at the same time as the in-person sale. This method enables hordes of Gopher fans to quickly grab hold of whatever tickets they can for this heated rivalry; often at the expense of Bulldog faithful who can't get through or are waiting in line.

One reasonable solution would be delaying purchases over the phone and Internet until a few days after the walk-up sale. This would allow locals to snag a majority of the tickets in-person and make Gopher fans drive to Duluth in order to guarantee themselves seats. A daunting task for a Monday morning.

With Ticketmaster wielding so much power over venues and events across the country, it would be difficult to make changes to the current procedure. They make serious money on surcharges and convenience fees that are tacked on all electronic sales. It's doubtful they'd be willing to bend in order to please a few hockey fans.

At the very least, I think UMD should adopt a policy similar to what the Minnesota Viking and Gopher football programs use when they battle their traditional rivals.

When the Vikings play the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome, fans purchasing tickets are also required to buy tickets to a preseason game at the same price.

While it eliminates only a few Packer fans, it does make the organization more money.

Gopher football employed the same practice for the Iowa game this year, making thousands of Hawkeye fans traveling to Minneapolis obtain tickets to the North Dakota State game as well; inflating what would have been a small turnout into an announced crowd of more than 62,000.


What would be wrong with making Gopher hockey fans pay for other games as well?

Perhaps they wouldn't be so quick to come here and eliminate any home-ice advantage the Bulldogs may have.

With a palatial arena, nearly every game televised statewide and a metropolitan campus of 45,000 students; the Gopher hockey program enjoys too many advantages over a school like UMD. Maybe not letting their fans take over the DECC would help level the playing field, if only just a little.

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