On 15-Jan-11, at 11:41 AM, William Underwood wrote:
> I think that the recession and pricing did not help in the smaller
> venues. I
> seem to recall it was pretty expensive for the era but I may be
> wrong. As
> for the non Canada games, well it was ALWAYS and IS always a tougher
> And doubly so back then as there were less Euros in the NHL thus
> they were
> less familiar and the US not all that good.
Pricing appears to have been an issue in Winnipeg. Even today, the
cost of living there is low relative to much of the rest of Canada.
Which suggests there was less elasticity in the price they'd pay
compared to a market like Montreal. And in Edmonton, with the price of
oil having doubled over a few years, they probably felt rich.
At all venues (Edmonton, Quebec, Montreal, Winnipeg), the tickets were
priced at $15, $20 and $25. Even adjusted for inflation (about $35 to
$55 in 2010), it may still seem like small potatoes. Hell, I think a
crisp fifty got you standing room at the Memorial Cup in Brandon,
Manitoba, last spring.
But in those days, you could sit in the golds at Maple Leaf Gardens
for $15, so there was somewhat of a premium being charged. And in '76,
adjusted for inflation, those prices translate to $9 to $15. So
sticker shock must have been a factor.
I don't know if the recession of 1981-82 played a role. It didn't
really kick in until July/August. In those days, inflation was high
enough that people saw little incentive to hold onto their money.
Which is one reason why interest rates were high. That said, the
savings rate would still dwarf what we see today. You might take that
to mean that, in the early days of a recession, someone might think
they had a bit in reserve and could still splurge on a hockey game.
Perhaps one difference is that, by 1981, the NHL was in Edmonton and
Winnipeg and Quebec. In '76, it would've been a rare chance to see Orr
and Sittler and Esposito and Robinson and so forth. By '81, not so much.
There was talk about moving the Winnipeg games to Calgary. The
Wikipedia article linked to suggests that the organizers stayed put
because it would cost too much to move the TV equipment.
Quebec nationalism has been suggested as a factor in Quebec City and,
perhaps to a lesser extent, Montreal. There was some upset that the
Team Canada roster didn't have enough québécois players overall, and a
sense the Nordiques were snubbed. After exhibitions were poorly
attended, the Quebec games were moved to Ottawa, where a smaller crowd
didn't look so bad in the smaller Civic Centre. The last-minute nature
of the switch probably depressed sales there.
In Montreal, if you wanted tickets to the Canada-USSR game on
September 9, you also had to buy the Finland-USA game that afternoon.
There were sufficient complaints that Hockey Canada ended up refunding
tickets for people who felt they'd been coerced. Another sign of the
changing nature of sports marketing: it's now commonplace for a team
like the Leafs to twist season ticket holders' arms into also buying
the Raptors package. I wonder if the issues in Quebec might also have
Remember that the second Canada Cup was supposed to have been played
in 1979, but squabbling between Hockey Canada and the CAHA resulted in
General Motors yanking its sponsorship. Then it was supposed to go
ahead in September 1980, but there was that little matter of the
Soviets invading Afghanistan. In the summer of 1980, the IIHF told
Eagleson they basically didn't believe he was capable of mounting a
tournament in 1981, but by the winter everything was back on.
Eagleson then proceeded to try to secure government sponsorship. He
proposed to the Trudeau government that if they ponied up the money,
games would be held from Halifax to Vancouver. They kind of had other
things on their mind.
Alberta briefly seemed willing to dip into the Heritage Fund in
exchange for holding the whole works in Edmonton and Calgary. With oil
having gone from $14 a barrel in 1978 to $35 in '81, Premier Lougheed
was enjoying a bit of a windfall. But that deal fell through, too.
It strikes me that a lack of organization played a role, then. As late
as January '81, there was doubt as to whether this thing would even go
And the lack of games in southern Ontario had to hurt. Forget the
proposition that Ballard was still fighting the Cold War; he was
probably astute enough to know that if you shook hands on a deal with
Eagleson, you'd better count your fingers.