Canucks to drop the puck, but will they drop prices to thank fans, sponsors?

The NHL will not enjoy a 2005-style rebound. There may even be an erosion. The economy is worse, there are more options for the sports/entertainment ...

As of column deadline, the last weekend without National Hockey League games, the Vancouver Canucks had yet to announce plans to make-good with ticketholders, sponsors and suppliers affected by the lockout.

You can bet it won’t start and end with “Thank-You Fans” painted on the ice like in 2005, after the lockout lost season.

The Canucks can afford to do the easy thing and slash ticket prices and offer discounts on concessions.

Some fans too addicted to Big Hockey vow not to give up their tickets but have stated they won’t buy food, beverages or souvenirs in arenas.

Some have gone so far as to endorse the #JustDropIt campaign to boycott the NHL altogether for 10 games. We’ll soon see whether it can be more than a Twitter hashtag.

Canucks Sports and Entertainment (Francesco Aquilini, proprietor) enjoyed perhaps the most lucrative fall series of concerts since Rogers Arena opened in 1995. Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Justin Bieber, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen came to Griffiths Way for one-night stands. Meanwhile, construction crews enjoyed the extra time to begin the first tower on the Rogers Arena property.

The addition of highrise, high-price residences and offices to the land between the viaducts might further inconvenience Canucks’ fans in the years to come. Construction sites have a habit of repelling people.

“Open for business, entrance that way” signs can’t solve troubles on their own.

What is certain is that the NHL will not enjoy a 2005-style rebound. There may even be an erosion.

The economy is worse, there are more options for the sports/entertainment dollar, high definition TV is now the standard, and there is no domestic Winter Olympics on the horizon to market around.

The population has aged and baby boomers are cashing out or have less cash to spend.

Entering the 2011 season, the Canucks’ $68.38 average ticket price was fifth highest in the 30-team league and the Fan Cost Index (the price for four tickets, four hot dogs, two small beers, two soft drinks, parking, two programs and two caps) was fourth highest in the league at $328.81.

If the Canucks’ alleged 400-plus-game sell-out streak is snapped, will fans even be told? It may actually have ended March 15, 2007, when the Canucks beat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in overtime.

Ticket scanners counted 18,325 entries (including 16,653 season ticket holders), but the official scoresheet said the building was at 18,630 capacity. Someone wasn’t telling the truth. The Canucks have done little to improve since losing the 2011 Stanley Cup on home ice.

If they win their first championship this June, it would come with an invisible asterisk.

The New Jersey Devils were the last lockout-shortened-season Stanley Cup winner.

They did not travel outside the Eastern time zone in either regular season or the playoffs in 1995.

When Oprah Winfrey comes to town

The end of the lockout means Oprah Winfrey’s January 24 appearance at Rogers Arena won’t be the rink’s biggest event this month.

Winfrey’s gig is exactly a week after her January 17 exclusive interview with Lance Armstrong on her own network, which, coincidentally, is called the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Winfrey needs the ratings boost badly.

Armstrong needs to save face after the biggest fall from grace in sports history last year when he was banned for life and lost all seven Tour de France titles after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency concluded he lied about his extensive history of performance-enhancing drugs and blood doping.

If Armstrong ’fesses up he could make a case to the World Anti-Doping Agency for reinstatement.

Armstrong may not return to cycling, but he could renew his career as a triathlete.

Such a comeback would involve the North Vancouver-based International Triathlon Union.

But that all hinges on whether authorities cite him for perjury or sponsors sue him. •

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