Ice and easy
Column by Ken Cohen
December 13, 2013 If you can't stomach the fact that you are now paying upwards of $100 per ticket to see professional sports teams play (mainly because they pay mediocre players more than $15 million a year), here's what you do: head west to Binghamton and catch a minor league hockey game. If you want real value for attending a sporting event, nothing comes close or is as close.
Every year, we go to one or two Binghamton Senators games. They are the AHL affiliate of the Ottawa Senators. We just went to one the Saturday after Thanksgiving and were joined by another family. There were seven of us altogether and the grand total for the tickets was $130. That's less than $19 per seat. And these were not seats tucked into some corner or obstructed by a net or glass or at a different altitude. They were just off center ice about 20 rows up absolutely perfect for watching hockey. Included in the $130 price were $25 in "Puck Bucks" coupons good for actual dollar value at any concession stand in the arena. We were able to grab some popcorn and pretzels and pick up souvenirs with these "Bucks."
There are always deals to be had. One year, we purchased four tickets for $75 and received a set of Senators glasses. They are constantly sending me e-mails with other offers which include free t-shirts, food or even tickets to another game.
The atmosphere at Broome County Arena couldn't be more family-friendly. There is a big mascot, Max, that roams all over, taking photos with kids and even handing out giveaways like pizzas, t-shirts and other goodies throughout the game. We went on poster night, so everyone got a poster of the Senators team, which they could have autographed by team members after the game. That's a standard activity at Senators games' players always stay around after the game win or lose for autographs and photos.
In between periods, there's plenty of action. A motorized mini-blimp flies around the arena occasionally dropping free tickets to future games. There are t-shirts fired into the stands from the ice (we actually snagged one at the last game) and fans who are able to throw a foam puck into a moving car are randomly selected to shoot real pucks into an empty net for the chance to win prizes. There's more. They are always flashing seat numbers on the video screen for other giveaways; there's lots of music and dancing in the stands as kids really get into it.
As for the hockey itself, it's top-notch. Only a very serious fan would notice the difference between this level and the NHL. In fact, many of these players have been in the NHL or will be shortly. There's also very little fighting we've been to six games over the last few years and have yet to see even a skirmish. The players want to be on the ice and not in a penalty box. Their primary goal is to showcase their skills so they can hopefully move on to the Ottawa Senators or other NHL teams. The result is a lot of close games we've seen three overtimes and two shootouts (both of which came down to the final shot).
To be honest, if you're taking children to any sports event, there is a small likelihood they are going to be able to distinguish between major league and minor league. As long as the game is in some type of arena or stadium and they feel like they're at someplace different than a gymnasium or high school field, it will be a special excursion for them. And minor league teams, more than major league teams realize that families are their lifeblood. They go out of their way to entertain and provide a fun, friendly atmosphere well beyond the actual playing action.
If you're looking for the ideal holiday gift, consider tickets to a Senators hockey game. Just call them at 607-722-7367 or go to binghamtonsenators.com. It's only 75 minutes away about the same distance to Woodbury Commons!
Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” appears every Friday.