NHL All-Star Game ticket policy changed at last minute, hurting parents with small kids

Unfortunately, before we get to celebrating the All-Star weekend, there's some bad news for parents of young children hoping to attend the festivities.

In today's Cannon Blasts, Eric mentioned a little wrinkle for this weekend's ticket policy:

The team also sent out this update yesterday as well. If you have children, regardless of age, they will need a ticket for entrance. This is a deviation from the norm for kids under 3 at Nationwide Arena.

Normally, children under 3 are free. The thinking goes - they'll be in mom or dad's (or aunt/uncle/grandma/grandpa's) lap the entire game. As a parent of a one year old, I can confirm that they cannot sit in their own arena seat without it folding up on them. Seems fairly obvious, right?

I can also see the other side (if I squint really hard) - the All-Star Game is run by the National Hockey League (not the CBJ), with the Blue Jackets and Nationwide Arena playing hosts. There will likely be tighter security, and not all the normal rules will fly. But here's the problem.

The Blue Jackets sent out info on these policies yesterday.

And they only sent them to season-ticket holders.

You can see the full notice here, but this is the relevant stuff:

With only a few days left until the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend Festivities begin, we wanted to send you a few important reminders. Both the Skills Competition and All-Star Game are run by the National Hockey League so there are a few differences as compared to a normal Blue Jackets game.

  • Every person (including infants) requires a ticket.

So, they sent out this notice on Tuesday, to a select group of people. If you purchased tickets from a reseller site, or friend or family member that's a ticket holder, unless they forwarded this email to you... right now, you have no idea Little Timmy will be turned away at the door.

Update: At least one third-party reseller, StubHub, notified purchasers of this updated policy. Thursday morning. For an event on Saturday. Confirmed by our own Dan P. below.

What appears to make this situation worse is that traveling families (we have reports so far from Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.) are now under the gun to either 1) Find childcare in a city they don't live in or 2) Cancel their plans and incur any cancelation fees of non-refundable tickets and reservations. That seems to be anything but fan friendly. You sure can bet Gary Bettman will talk about how great the fans are, and how this event is really celebrating them. Is it asking too much for the league's actions to support those words?

This was originally brought to my attention by Lauren Brodt, who gave me her permission to republish her letter to the NHL:

Dear NHL,

I am very disappointed that the infant ticket policies for this weekend's All Star events at Nationwide Arena ere only just yesterday communicated to ticket holders that everyone, including infants, need a ticket. I had previously contacted the venue, who told me venue policies were still in place, but now here I am 4 days before the event, with no options for my 1 year old, who isn't even big enough to hold down a seat.

I am a half season ticket holder with the Pittsburgh Penguins, my sister, Ashley Wright with the Columbus Blue Jackets, have attended multiple NHL Winter Classic games, away games, and the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. We've been strong supporters of NHL events.

The NHL is always touted as a family friendly spectator sport, and for me, it has been, until now. My daughter's have been attending games since they were 4 and 6 months old. We've celebrated birthdays and anniversaries at NHL games. My sister even had her wedding and reception at a Blue Jackets game last year. My 3.5 year old has been to at least 40 NHL games, my 1 year old at least 15. Hockey is a family event for us. My older daughter confirms every game that Sidney Crosby is playing, and my younger daughter's eyes light up and starts clapping every time she hears a goal horn go off.

Now, you not only want me to spend a minimum of $75 on a ticket for my 1 year (single tickets are currently $120 on Stub Hub), but this policy was not communicated to the venue or fans until 4 days before the game. I am now forced to scramble to either find arrangements for my 1 year old that can't even sit in a seat by herself, or pay an outrageous amount of a money for a seat that won't even be used. Many families that are now in the same situation probably saved just to attend the event and can't afford the extra ticket.

The Blue Jackets and Nationwide Arena tell me there is nothing they can do, that the NHL just updated the policy. Four days before the event. How family friendly is that?

Lauren Brodt
Penguins Season Ticket Holder

This is so disappointing. Sadly, it's also in line with what the NHL did at the Winter Classic, but with one key difference - they notified attendees months in advance of the event, giving more than enough time to find other arrangements.

From Erick Pfleiderer, a Washington Capitals season-ticket holder:

Saying that I'm disappointed is an understatement as we just went through something very similar with the Winter Classic here in DC. However, it was handled much better, because we knew for months in advance that lap infants were not allowed, and we were able to make childcare arrangements. Since that event was in the city we live, it was a little bit easier to make arrangements. In this case, at this time, we have no options available to us.

Right now, we likely have families en route to Columbus with no idea of this league policy. It's especially concerning considering it appears as if the team only found out about this recently as well, yet they aren't in a position to make more tickets available.

This is a mess, to say the least, and not at all how I want to see the All-Star weekend get started.

A request to a team official asking for clarification was unreturned as of publishing, but we'll update this post if more details come to light. If you or someone you know is affected by this, please share in the comments.

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