Junior hockey rivals NHL with more than dollars

January 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 


A fan looks on from his cheap seat as the Richmond Sockeyes warm up prior to a PIJHL game at Minoru Arenas. (Kirk Darbyshire photo)

The National Hockey League is not the only place you can find good-quality, competitive hockey in the Lower Mainland, but it is the game that could empty your wallet.

“I would definitely say I come to the Giants games over Canuck games because it’s so much more affordable,” said Mike Pitre, a season-ticket holder since the Giants inaugural Western Hockey League (WHL) season in 2002. “I can still afford to go for dinner before the game and, more importantly, beers after it. It’s so much more fun to be able to make a night of it.”

Pitre is not wrong in believing he’s saving lots of money by choosing Giants games over those of their professional counterparts. For the price of one regular-season game ticket to GM Place to watch the Canucks – about $130 – you get this: two tickets to a Giants game at the Pacific Coliseum, parking, two beer, two hotdogs, one Giants team Tshirt, one Giants hat, plus $7 and change back in your pocket.

There are three junior hockey leagues in B.C.: the WHL, the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), and the Pacific International Junior Hockey League (PIJHL).

The most local and community-based of these is the PIJHL, which has its entire conference of teams located within the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. For a long time the PIJHL was considered a league riddled with violence, fights and little skill, but all that’s changing.

“The league has really cleaned its act up in the last few years,” said Mas Morimoto, public relations manager for the Richmond Sockeyes. “It used to be that the players playing in the league were older and at the end of their playing careers. Nowadays we are much more of a developmental league for younger players on their way up.”

Play quality in all of B.C.’s junior leagues is high. Players are routinely drafted by NHL teams when they turn 18. The good thing for fans of junior teams is that it’s not impossible to get tickets. Unlike Canuck games, for which single-seat tickets are pretty much all that’s available for good games, junior games have plenty of good tickets available for walk-up customers on game days.

The Giants average just under 10,000 fans a game in the Coliseum, which seats 16,281. The Sockeyes play in a much smaller venue at Minoru Arenas, which seats about 1,100. This season, they have averaged about 400 fans a game. Minoru Arenas is a first-come-first-seat facility, so all tickets are general admission. The Canucks have sold all 18,630 tickets to the Garage for every game since Nov. 14, 2002.

Lower-level junior hockey clubs appeal to a sense of community and families, according to Morimoto. Supporting local programs such as Thomas Cook Elementary School breakfast program, which supplies a hot breakfast to kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford one, and raising money for a local firefighter who was injured on the job, leaving him a quadriplegic, are examples of how the Sockeyes have become involved with the community. The Sockeyes support such charities by donating a portion of ticket sales.

Tickets to the Sockeyes games are only $8 for adults and free for any kid wearing a minor-hockey jersey. For roughly the same price as one ticket to a Canuck game plus parking, a father and son could get a season-ticket package and attend all 25 home games of the team of their choice in the PIJHL.