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Stu's Slapshots: Canadiens Economics 101 and answering fans' questions

Why do the Habs charge so much for tickets, parking, beer and hot dogs? Because they can — just like most pro sports teams.

Fans fill the Bell Centre to bursting as players take the ice.
Could pro sports teams eventually reach a limit as to what fans are willing to pay for a beer at a game? Stu Cowan wonders. What is the most you would be willing to pay? Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

Welcome to my new weekly weekend notebook focusing on the Canadiens, while also answering questions from readers.

If you have a question for me or a question you’d like me to ask one of the Canadiens players or head coach Martin St. Louis, you can send them to me by email at [email protected]

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I’m far from a business expert, but I did take Economics 101 in high school.

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That’s where I learned the law of supply and demand and how it works. It’s pretty simple: If you have a limited supply of a product and there’s a big demand for it you can charge a pretty hefty price.

I was remembering my Economics 101 class when I was walking to the Bell Centre for the Canadiens’ first pre-season game Monday night — a 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils. I noticed that the price to park in the underground garage at the Bell Centre had increased to $41 from $38 last season. It was an hour before the game and I also noticed the sign saying that the parking garage was already sold out.

While there were plenty of empty seats at the Bell Centre for the game — especially in the lower bowl — most of those seats were sold. That’s because season-ticket holders have no choice and have to purchase their tickets for all four pre-season games at the Bell Centre at regular-season prices.

One season-ticket holder told me it’s hard to sell off the pre-season games because TicketMaster won’t allow them to be resold below face value and third-party brokers like StubHub charge “crazy fees” to sellers.

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“Good news is you could say the good (regular-season) games are also the same price as the pre-season,” the season-ticket holder noted. “Glass half-full outlook?”

That’s one way to look at it.

I was also remembering my Economics 101 class when I saw a tweet during the game saying that a beer at the Bell Centre now costs $16.50.

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I did a little investigative reporting before the start of the second pre-season game at the Bell Centre — a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night — by walking through the concourse to check out the concession prices.

The most expensive beer listed is an imported can, which is actually $16.25 — not $16.50. A microbrasserie can or draft costs $14.75, a domestic draft is $14, a 355ml domestic can is $10 and a 473mL domestic can is $13.25.

A regular-size soft drink costs $6.25, while a bottle of water is $5.75. A hot dog is $5.50, but there’s a special if you get two hot dogs and a bag of chips. That costs $15.75.

Why do the Canadiens charge so much?

Because they can — just like most pro sports teams — and people were lined up at the concessions before Wednesday’s game.

Supply and demand.

As I like to say, who’s crazy — the person selling beer for $16.25 or the people lining up to buy it?

Pro sports teams are in the business of making money as much — and some might argue more — as winning games. It’s big business.

If you want to sit in Section 101, four rows behind the Canadiens’ bench for their home opener Oct. 14 against the Chicago Blackhawks, there were four tickets available on the team’s website Friday afternoon at a cost of $1,168.50 each (including taxes and service charges). There were also seats available in the very top row of the Bell Centre in Section 410 behind one of the nets for $307.50 each.

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Canadiens fans who can’t afford to go to the Bell Centre can be happy with the fact every game is televised in Montreal — including the pre-season games.

As fan Tony Prigioniero noted on Twitter during Monday’s game under the tweet about “$16.50” beers: “I’ll stick to getting a 6 pack for $10 and watch the game on my 75-inch TV. I guess inflation costs has effected refreshments at the Bell Centre, too.”

I often wonder if pro sports teams will eventually reach a limit as to what fans are willing to pay for a beer at a game and what that limit would be.

What’s the most you’d be willing to pay for a beer at a game?

Going to start new weekend notebook this season called Stu's Slapshots in which I will answer reader questions and give readers chance to send questions they'd like me to ask #Habs players. You can send questions to me on this platform or by email at [email protected] #HabsIO

— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) September 25, 2023

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Fan question No. 1

Paul O (@nanerc_paul) sent me this question on Twitter after I posted an item about the new Stu’s Slapshots notebook.

“Great initiative Stu! Question for you, what is Alex Newhook’s ceiling based on what you have seen so far?”

Newhook really caught my eye during the training-camp scrimmages while playing on a line with Josh Anderson and Juraj Slafkovsky. I already knew about Newhook’s speed, but I didn’t realize what a good shot he has. He also displayed an impressive work ethic, buzzing all over the ice, and had some real chemistry with Anderson. Head coach Martin St. Louis noted that the experience Newhook and Anderson have — along with their speed — could help Slafkovsky.

St. Louis has said several times since the start of training camp that he has many options with his forward lines and the fact Newhook can play centre or wing is one reason for that. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Newhook play wing on the No. 1 line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. They practised as a line on Thursday.

“I think I’m a guy that can push the pace with my speed and with my offensive ability,” Newhook said. “I think getting the chance to maybe play a bit more, play with some different guys in a different situation I think will be good. Looking forward to getting going.”

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I think Newhook’s ceiling is quite high and I also think Canadiens fans will quickly realize why GM Kent Hughes was willing to give up a first-round pick (31st overall) and a second-round pick (37th overall) at this year’s NHL Draft to get Newhook from the Colorado Avalanche, who selected him 16th overall at the 2019 draft. The Canadiens now have three players selected in the first round of the 2019 draft, including Kirby Dach (picked third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks) and Caufield (selected 15th overall by the Canadiens).

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Newhook had 14-16-30 totals while playing in all 82 games last season with the Avalanche. He only averaged 13:57 of ice time per game, which ranked eighth among Avalanche forwards.

With increased ice time — including on the power play — I can easily see Newhook scoring 20 goals and getting 50 points this season. He’s only 22 years old, so his ceiling should be higher than that. The talent is definitely there.

A goal to forget

Canadiens goalie Samuel Montembeault would probably like to forget the pre-season opener after he let in a goal that will be shown on blooper-reel videos for years to come.

Devils defenceman Simon Nemec — selected second overall at the 2022 NHL Draft after the Canadiens took Slafkovsky with the No. 1 pick — crossed centre ice and then dumped the puck into the corner. It took a crazy bounce and then went into the net off Montembeault’s skate.

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Montembeault smiled after the game when asked about the goal and also showed his sense of humour.

“It’s probably one of the worst goals I ever gave up in my life,” he said. “You got to put that behind me. I stopped a breakaway after, too, and that’s the most important shot after.

“I’m probably going to keep my phone on off for a couple of days,” he added with a little chuckle. “But there’s nothing I can do about it. Just got to put it behind. It was weird. It came off quite a bad angle. I tried to get off my post a little bit so the puck would go in front of me. But then it bounced and hit the back of my leg and went in. It’s better to give those right now than during the season.”

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Playing goalie for the Canadiens is one of the most pressure-packed positions in sports and Montembeault seems to have the personality to handle the ups and the downs.

Carey Price, who knows all about that pressure, was asked about Montembeault during a news conference before the start of training camp to announce him as a new ambassador for CFMOTO Canada off-road vehicles.

“He’s got a great attitude,” Price said about Montembeault. “I haven’t worked with him a whole lot, but I’ve gotten to know him a little bit over the last year and he’s got a great attitude towards everything. He’s got a good foundation. I feel like in this market and to be a goaltender you got to have the right personality and it seems like he has it.”

Fan question No. 2

Former Canadien Joel Edmundson suffered a fractured hand during a scrimmage last Sunday with the Washington Capitals. The 30-year-old defenceman will be sidelined 4-6 weeks after requiring surgery on his hand.

Edmundson missed 79 games over the last two seasons with the Canadiens because of back problems. When the Canadiens traded Edmundson to the Capitals on July 4 in exchange for a third round and a seventh round pick at the 2024 NHL Draft, they also retained 50 per cent (US$1.75 million) of his salary for this final season of his contract.

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Darryl (@bugsy1126) sent me this question on Twitter.

“Hey! My question is about the cap. MTL pays 50% of Edmundson’s salary but what happens when (or if) Eddie goes on LTIR for the Caps? Do the Habs get some relief the same way the Caps do?”

I reached out to Jamie Davis, the main man behind the outstanding CapFriendly website, for an answer to this one. I recently wrote a column on CapFriendly and its origins.

“No relief for the Habs,” Davis responded in a text. “Dead cap cannot be touched, essentially just treated as a cap penalty.”

The Canadiens also have US$2,343,750 in dead-cap money this season — and next — for defenceman Jeff Petry after retaining a chunk of his salary in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings.

DJ wanted

Speaking of Edmundson, he was the locker-room DJ during his three seasons with the Canadiens.

I wrote a column last year about how Edmundson’s love for music started in the back seat of the car during family road trips listening to his late father, Bob, singing along to Elton John songs. Edmundson was also the team DJ when he played for the St. Louis Blues and Carolina Hurricanes.

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Now the Canadiens are looking for a new locker-room DJ.

“We might have tryouts,” Caufield said. “But I think there’s a couple of guys … we’ll change it up every day. But for sure I think (Edmundson) left us a pretty good playlist.”

Fan Question No. 3

Babes Bambino (@masdespop) sent me this question on Twitter: “Wonder if this generation of players have ever watched some classic games from the Stanley Cup years on YouTube? Think it’s important for today’s players to see at least the championships & legends from the ’70s to ’93.”

After Wednesday’s pre-season game — in which he scored the winning goal — I asked Caufield if he had ever watched highlights of the Canadiens’ 1993 Stanley Cup run on YouTube.

“I don’t think so, no,” he responded. “I should. I will watch it.”

I’ll ask a few more players this question — which is a good one — over the next couple of weeks.

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Captain Nick

Filip Mesar is happy to be reunited with Slafkovsky — his childhood friend and teammate while growing up in Slovakia — at training camp for the second straight year after being selected in the first round (26th overall) of the 2022 NHL Draft.

But Mesar said the player who has motivated him the most is Suzuki.

“He’s helping me a lot,” Mesar said about the captain. “Last year I came to training camp and he came to me: ‘Hi, buddy, you want to go for Tim’s (Tim Hortons) or something?” I was like: Oh, my God, that’s crazy. ‘Sure.’ He’s a nice guy. He always talks to me a lot and also a couple of other guys. But I would say Suzuki is probably my biggest motivation here.”

When Suzuki was at Lachine’s Maple Grove Elementary School a couple of weeks ago as an ambassador for Goodfood and it’s long-term partner the Breakfast Club of Canada, I asked him what’s the best advice he has received when it comes to being captain of the Canadiens.

“Probably just from (former captain) Shea Weber,” Suzuki said. “He pretty much just said: ‘They didn’t give you the C for what you’re going to do. They gave you the C for what you’ve been doing.’ So I just try to stay who I am and what got me here. Playing hard each and every night. Leading by example is the biggest thing I can do. Just showing the guys the right way … playing hard in practice, competing and putting your best foot forward every day.”

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Headed to Tremblant

After practising at the CN Sports Complex in Brossard on Wednesday, the Canadiens will take a bus to Mont-Tremblant, where they will stay and practise until Saturday, when they will travel to Ottawa to play their final pre-season game against the Senators.

“It’s going to be huge,” Caufield said about the trip to Tremblant. “Just getting away from here, first off. But just getting to hang around with the guys and just be together and bond as a team, kind of grow that way. For sure there will be a lot of work put in, but I know there will be a little bit of fun times mixed in as well. Really excited and pumped for the opportunity there.”

When Caufield was told he wouldn’t be getting away from Montreal media members who will also be going to Tremblant, he smiled and said: “True. As long as we’re not driving together.”

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Birthday boys

An early happy birthday wish to Canadiens prospect Jesse Ylönen, who will turn 24 on Tuesday.

Some former Canadiens will also be celebrating birthdays in the coming week.

Hall of Famer Patrick Roy will turn 58 on Thursday and Nate Thompson will turn 39 the same day. Daniel Brière, now GM of the Philadelphia Flyers, turns 46 on Friday.

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