Columbus creates $10 installment plan and more economic gloom

Super Value Plan sounds like something translated from the original Japanese, but it's actually the Columbus Blue Jackets' new campaign to somehow convince fans to purchase tickets in a massive recession -- with just 14 easy installments of $10!

The plan allows fans to purchase two tickets to three weekend games. From the Blue Jackets, here's how it works:

The packages available include a pair of tickets in the same seat locations for each game. Packages with seats in the Upper Bowl (Areas E and F) at Nationwide Arena are priced at $150 or $10 per week, while packages with seats in the Lower Bowl (Area C) are $300 or $20 per week. There are no additional ticket fees or postage charges.

The payment plan will work as follows. The first payment will be due at time of purchase and the payment plan will begin on Monday, December 29. Fans can choose either an automatic checking account deduction or credit card charge that will take place every Monday through March 30 (14 weeks). Fans also have the option to pay in full at the time of purchase.

While it's no mortgage bailout, the plan is pretty innovative in tough economic times. Everyone suffers a little sticker shock in their lives; but when that high-end flat screen TV can be yours for the price of a dinner at Burger King over the course of 60 months, you tend to get over it.

But the plan is also really, really, really disturbing and symbolic of the economic poop-storm that's swirling around professional sports. Forget that these games are on the weekend, which should usually sell themselves; we're talking about having to encourage fans to buy tickets to see the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks on a weekend. That's absolutely stunning, but the Blue Jackets (28th in attendance) are just a few fans in average attendance (13,781) above the Nashville Predators (29th).

This what happens to a fan base in a bad economy with a team that's never made the playoffs.

There was more economic sunshine from the NHL Board of Governors meeting in Florida.

Several NHL owners sounded like they needed electroshock therapy after exiting the BOG meetings on the economy. From the Globe & Mail:

Though the governors insist the current season's revenues are largely insulated from the deepening recession, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, the chairman of the board of governors, said: "Business is going to be difficult in Boston next year, I know. And it's difficult now."

Ottawa Senators president Roy Mlakar described the presentations as "enlightening" and "in some ways, it's a little depressing." He added that the session was unlike any of the others he has attended in the past.

"The discussion was even more global than North American or related to hockey," Mlakar said. "It's really what's going on in the world, even on how it's impacted on China, Japan, other countries. This wasn't just hockey-related today ... we have never been in this position in my 20-who-knows-how-many years in the National Hockey League, we've never seen anything like this." 

Two interesting notes emerged from yesterday's session.

The first concerns the Buffalo Sabres, who are in full-on denial that the team is for sale and that it would even be sold to someone who wants to relocate it. But could Buffalo share the Sabres with another city? Damian Cox of the Toronto Star received an interesting quote from managing partner Larry Quinn regarding that idea:

But Quinn didn't deny that Sabres owner Tom Golisano has been approached by a variety of investors about selling the team and said the club has examined the concept of playing some of its games outside of Buffalo.

"People have suggested that to us," he said. "But (Hamilton) is not our market. It's the Toronto Maple Leafs' market. From time to time we've played some exhibition games and we've done a lot to encourage cross-border fans.

"In theory, (playing games in Hamilton) is a nice idea. But it's not really where we are right now."

When it comes to the long-term future of the Sabres, however, Quinn rejected any suggestion that the hockey team is in a similar position to that of the Bills, an NFL team with an aging owner, a worn stadium and a shrinking market. "While there may be speculation about the Bills, there shouldn't be any about the Sabres," he said.

Finally, Pierre LeBrun of ESPN reported on the BOG's discussion about the European Champions League, and if the NHL might invest in it:

The new Champions Hockey League in Europe, which is in its first season of operation, was discussed. The league is similar to the soccer version, where club teams from all over Europe and Russia compete in a season-long tournament.

We find it intriguing to say the least that the NHL discussed the merits of possibly investing into a part-ownership of the league.

"It's interesting. It's a good concept that's over there," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's executive vice president and director of hockey operations. "The owners found it interesting.

At this point, it's only an idea, but if the NHL does indeed buy into the Champions Hockey League, it only further strengthens the notion that it continues to eye possible European expansion one day. As it is, six NHL teams are expected to open the regular season with games in Europe next fall.

Wonder what the installment plans look like for Helsinki tickets ...

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