- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2011

To say Capitals tickets are red hot would be an unnecessary pun, even to describe a team with the slogan of “Rock the Red” that boasts a season-ticket holder renewal rate better than 97 percent for next season.

It’s more like they’re darn near impossible to get. With just six games left in the regular season, playoff hockey is quickly approaching - but most Caps fans who don’t own season tickets will have to shell out tons of cash to see it in person at the Verizon Center.

That is, if they can even get their hands on tickets.

“There are certainly a lot of people who want to take part in it,” said Jim Van Stone, Caps vice president of ticket sales. “We just don’t have the seats.”

That’s thanks to those season-ticket holders snatching up a lot of them and to many on team email and mailing lists buying up the rest. Almost the entire inventory is gone.

So what are Caps fans to do?

A couple of solutions are to buy from season-ticket holders or check out online brokers, such as StubHub. Price is the problem there, with StubHub’s cheapest seats for the first round starting at $84 - and $495 for the Stanley Cup Finals.

Of course, a run to the Finals - if the Caps manage to make one - could be priceless … like those old MasterCard commercials.

It would be for Jared and Joanne Pierce.

“It’s not something we can really put a price on, because no team is ever guaranteed that opportunity, and I don’t think you can just say, ‘Oh, I’ll go next year,’ ” Joanne Pierce said.

That’s been a mentality fans have had for the past three seasons, with fervor for playoff tickets at a ridiculous rate ever since this streak of success began. But as always, the prices have gone up. Any fan wanting to just get into the building for 16 playoff games - if there are that many in Washington - would have to spend at least $616, based on the face value of upper-deck corner seats.

Those tickets are more difficult to find than injury information in the NHL come playoff time. But Van Stone said there’s a little-known way for fans to get last-minute tickets.

“We’re required to hold seats for league use,” he said. “If those go unspoken for, we put them [up for sale] 48 hours out on TicketMaster.”

It may be worth the wait-and-hope mentality, because as coach Bruce Boudreau put it: “The playoffs are a different animal.” And as pricey as getting into the Verizon Center to see that animal will be this spring, there’s no shortage of fans willing to cut into their earnings to catch a glimpse.

The reason is simple.

“Winning,” said another fan, Erika Johansson, of Herndon. “While there are other elements contributing to the demand, it ultimately comes down to the Capitals being the team in D.C. that’s winning in a time when other teams are struggling to rebuild or find themselves.”

Now it’s time for Caps fans themselves to struggle, just to get inside.



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