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The Quest for the Winter Classic 2011

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The Quest for the Winter Classic 2011
By Kevin O'Connor
(aka rainman67ko)
January 2011

What started as a statement of fact in “I’m so there…” back when the 2011 Winter Classic was announced for Pittsburgh last May, sounded all but lost come New Years day. I had entered in the NHL draft lottery to win a chance to buy some tickets but to no avail. Ticket prices on the internet where all over the place. They were listing anywhere from $350 up to $1350 depending on the seat. I knew a few Pens season ticket holders had some but they where all going to attend. It had been a good year for me, but not great, and after getting through some expensive home improvement projects, my budget for the Winter Classic was fixed at just below what tickets where generally listing for.

My son Blair is 18. He is the third son of five. He was out visiting for the Christmas holiday. He is an intense Penguins fan ever since I took him to a game a few years before. While we’ve always been close, both by proximity and by relationship, but when boys get older, and Dad moves to the other side of the state, quality time is harder to come by. His older brothers had returned to NJ for New Years to celebrate with girlfriends, etc. Blair and I saw this opportunity to grab the once in a life time experience and find 2 Winter Classic Tickets.

It started as a joke… then slowly, we began to plot. It was New Years Eve and we had nothing else in the world going on except to find tickets on eBay or Stubhub, or whatever outlet had them. The intensity grew with each mouse click, every page scroll, all the while our brains justifying, tricking, and trying to understand how much we would need to spend. We set a limit. Adjusted it and searched again. We rang in the New Year no closer to having tickets in hand. But this was in fact a New Year and we where resolute in our quest for the Classic. We retired to fight another day.

The morning began with a scan of the ticketing sites for price shifts, mostly up, then a fresh search on eBay. Again nothing firm within reach. Then I began to dive into the mess that is Craigslist. To my surprise it was a hive of ticketing activity. Prices were reasonable. At first all inquiries were ignored or replied with “sorry bud… sold” or some variation. A lot of jockeying could be seen taking place. The tickets that were listing for $500 OBO each were disappearing rapidly. Too rich for me I thought. Then I saw a posting “Free Ticket – Come to the Westin and wait outside between 9 and 9:15 and I’ll hand them to the first 4 people I see.” We thought it was too good but we thought this as we raced downtown. When we got outside the Westin there were 2 other people who saw the same add. Apparently a staffer or sponsor had the tickets but was not permitted to sell them and could only gift them. A few moments later we learned from another that he had actually done so inside just before 9.

It was too good to be true and now we were desperately intent on finding tickets. We went to the stadium area and spoke with some of the regular scalpers, to get a feel for the market, and gauge their confidence. You see, the weather report was ominous, and the fact that the game had been pushed to prime time was cause for concern for some. Apparently some folks couldn’t adjust plans and that is why the tickets were starting to pop up at close to reasonable prices. We missed out on no less than 3 other Craigslist deals on the way back home. These tickets where going as soon as they were listing.

We had moved our budget up one notch but I was done. The tickets in our price range were mostly gone by the time they posted. I had exhaled, accepted that I would be watching from home, and grabbed a bite to eat. Time to regroup. After I ate and looked on Craigslist one last time. There it was, like a neon sign, a new post just after hitting refresh - “Two tickets $400 OBO” and a phone number!!!

I called the out of market number as quickly as I could. The man on the other end started to tell me he had another offer and I shot him mine that was well over what he had been getting, but still under my newly adjusted, modified, broken, and modified again, final budget. That was my strategy all along, you see, I had to convince my self I was fine with not going and then it would happen. The hockey gods were good to us at that moment. He said he would hold them and to meet him on the North Shore by PNC park in 25 minutes. We drove, giddy like kids at Christmas, but still apprehensive as they were not in hand. When we pulled into his Hotel parking lot the seller said “Oh your Penguins fans…” to which I replied “yes we are” and very quickly “are you having fun here today boy this is a great event eh?” Apparently the Caps season ticket holders got the opportunity to purchase many of the Winter Classic tickets. The Capitals were well represented at the event I later observed. We exchanged the money and the tickets and wished each other well. Driving away to fist pounds and high fives with Blair, we had reached our goal, our New Years Resolution, our Winter Classic was going to be a reality in Prime Time!

The game has been chronicled by many professional sports writers, telecasters, and even HBO 24/7. This epic journey from the mustard seed idea to the realization of the goal, the journey, the experience, this was ours. Blair commented on my facebook photo again just the other night “we were crazy!” and “Thanks Dad”. That is one in the win column for me.

Updated 01-30-2011 at 12:58 AM by rainman67ko

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