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Want to Beat the Traffic? Stay Home

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The “Beat the Traffic” crowd at PPG Paints Arena is strangling the Pittsburgh Penguins fan base. Embarrassing it. And, those who are bailing too early are sucking the life out of the arena.

It started small a few years ago. A few hundred people would head for the exits midway through the third period. As the passionate Penguins fanbase created ticket demand, they put upward pressure on ticket prices. As ticket prices climbed, less interested folks filled the vacated seats.

A few hundred left. Then it grew. By last year, several thousand went home regardless of the score.

Saturday night, the Penguins were beating the Buffalo Sabres, 3-1 in the third period but the exits were full. When Phil Kessel scored with seven minutes remaining, the goal celebration was not 18,000 fans cheering–it was 8,000 fans cheering and 6,000 fans grabbing their coats.

3,000-4,000 had already left.

Before Andrew WK’s party got started, the aisles were full. The apathy and laziness are spreading like a wild fire.

The 12-year-old hockey loving boy in me raged. The part of me who cares about the Penguins fan base growing and flourishing cringed.

The picture above was taken with six minutes remaining in a game the Pittsburgh Penguins were winning, their fourth straight and playing some of their best hockey of the season. Maybe half of the house remained.

Reasons?

It was a Saturday night. The “it’s a school night” or “I have to work tomorrow” excuse doesn’t apply to very many.

Some fans defend the action with reasoning such as–“I paid, I have the right to leave when I want.” That is certainly true. You’re also able to pick your nose in Starbucks. We don’t recommend either.

 

If you have to beat the traffic…just stay home. Simple. You won’t have to worry about parking. $12 beers. And you won’t be taking seats from faithful and enthusiastic Penguins fans who used to shake the arena to its foundation.

Yes, Penguins fans were once one of the loudest, boisterous fanbases in the league. It was impossible to attend a Penguins game and not have a good time. It was impossible for the hair on your arms to not stand up when the crowd roared through TV timeouts.

So, stay home. Or, find an activity you enjoy. Go for dinner and drinks. The Pittsburgh Opera has a couple of lovely resident sopranos. The Marriage of Figaro last month was fantastic.

But, everyone who attends the opera, symphony or show stays to the end, so maybe the cultural district is not for the “Beat the Traffic” crowd, either.

Imagine leaving a show or a movie with 15 minutes left. You wouldn’t do it! So many selfishly drain the life from the hockey crowd by doing so. It becomes part of the culture here, hundreds have become thousands, and Saturday it bordered on 10,000.

Is It a Problem?

Pittsburgh Hockey Now reached out to members of the Penguins organization, off-the-record, to inquire if the issue was a problem, internally. It doesn’t sound like it is.

So, why does it matter to me? Someday, the Penguins will not have the best player of the generation. For 33 years, from Mario Lemieux to Jaromir Jagr, to Lemieux again and Sidney Crosby, Penguins fans have been given gifts that no fan base has ever received.

I feel bad for the kids in the crowd who don’t know the fantastic experience of hockey games that I experienced, as a young man. I worry they won’t love the game or going to games.

Instead of growing the fan base, raising the bar regarding knowledge and creating an attractive culture, it seems things are going the other way.

Toronto or Montreal wouldn’t empty the barn midway through the third period of a contested game. Certainly not a win. Nor would other hockey towns like Minneapolis or Boston. Direct competitors like Washington and Columbus do not empty the arena during a Saturday night win leaving only the sounds of skate blades cutting the ice.

Solutions?

One of the great moments last season was courtesy of a corner section. As fans began to head for the exits, the section started chanting “Beat the Traffic!”

Some folks still left but much more stayed. The trend, if only for a moment, was reversed because there was no momentum to disappear.

Fans need to reclaim the culture and atmosphere inside the arena. Until then, the best way to beat the traffic, is, ironically, to stay until the final horn…

 

 

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Joe Colosimo
Joe Colosimo
3 years ago

It’s honestly terrible. Penguins fans act and talk like they are the best in the league and make fun of Nashville and Columbus fans. The problem is that we are spoiled and the novelty of winning has worn off for some. Also the crowd is a very corporate one and the pens have outpriced the true fans. Looks bad on TV and this would’ve never happened 5-10 years ago

Stefano
Stefano
3 years ago

As a half season ticket holder I could not agree with this more. I love the quote about you would never leave a movie early. Why even go to the game? Stay home

Cheryl B Veldman
3 years ago

It’s interesting that you posted about this, because, being relatively new to the area specifically to be closer to the teams I love, I’m perhaps more aware than I might be otherwise many people leave early. In my section even, where that’s not a cheap ticket. I feel so incredibly lucky to just be there, that it kills me that others don’t stay until the end. This holds true for Steelers games. Your ticket, your choice, but I would ask all fans to stop and think how lucky we truly are to have a championship caliper team here and show… Read more »

Brett
Brett
3 years ago

Dan, I understand but you’re kind of insulting s guy that leaves with 2 min left in the game and if tied, I go stand at the top of section and watch the reminder to beat traffic. This is the same guy that lives 30 min away, that has 2 year old and 4 month old that needs to get home and clean the house because my wife and I both work full time jobs. Give me a couple hours to get away from it all buddy and don’t insult the people that love the game but have a ton… Read more »

Kboy
Kboy
3 years ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Traffic is worse. Says who? Maybe it would help if PGH had the infrastructure to move people like NY, DC or LA. It also doesn’t help whenever naysayers jump online dissing Pens fans. How many sell outs in a row?

Randy
Randy
3 years ago

What it all comes down to is peoples perception of “beating the traffic” or time management. When I was little I attended games and my father would always mention, lets go early so we could beat the traffic. My little mind thought, “why dad. I want to see ALL the game to the final whistle….it is why we came”. I would pout and be upset that “to beat the traffic” cost me seeing the “WHOLE” game. I completely agree that you buy the ticket, you could leave during the first 5 minutes of the game if you really want to,… Read more »

JLE
JLE
3 years ago

I used to go to a lot of games in the early ’80s when the team was the worst in the league and average attendance was 5,000. My friends and I enjoyed the games as much as in these later years because it was all real fans back then.

Sue
Sue
3 years ago

I have only gotten to see the Pens once in recent years, I wish some of those fans that leave early would donate a seat to me and not in the nose bleed section where I sat. I was in such awe of it all I could have stayed there forever. Also I was very surprised that it wasn’t as loud as I had imagined it to be. Pens fans are spoiled! We’ve had the best of the best for a very long time.

Nathan
Nathan
3 years ago

They have jacked up the price of a ticket almost 100% over the last 10 years. I’m not saying their aren’t fans there now, but most are thrill seekers who have gotten these tickets from someone’s bosses company. Of course they are going to beat the traffic. What do you all expect? Blame the Penguins organization. Or don’t blame them. They are taking advantage of supply and demand. However, It’s gotten too expensive for the common fan. I’ve paid as much as 25k a year for seats over the last 15 years. I stopped 4 years ago. It’s too expensive.… Read more »

Mark Kopsack
Mark Kopsack
3 years ago

Our family had owned Penguin season tickets since 1994 one way or another. In more recent years, we bought 4 good pretty good seats for our family and business. (In the Civic/Mellon Arena we had seats in D-24, C-27, C-7, C-8 and in Consol Energy Center we had seats in 122, Lower bowl). Our seats were $28 in D-24 and the vantage point was as good as you see on television. In the lower bowl at Consol each ticket was $125 and ballooned to close to $200 during the later rounds of the playoffs. What used to cost $1148 per… Read more »

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