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NCAA hockey costs jump for fans

Ken Fowler | Friday, March 23, 2007

A three-year difference and a 12-place jump in the polls apparently make a difference of $55 for Notre Dame students hoping to travel to the NCAA hockey regionals beginning tonight in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Senior Johnny McDermott has fond memories of traveling in 2004 to then-No. 13 Notre Dame’s only previous game in the NCAA hockey tournament. He got a bus trip, a box lunch and a multi-game pass for $10. But as the now-No. 1 Irish prepare for Alabama-Huntsville tonight, students will be paying more then six times the amount they paid three years ago for a chance to see the Irish on the ice.

“I was kind of surprised that they weren’t doing something with regard to the [ticket] prices,” said McDermott, who is driving to tonight’s game.

The increase in cost is not the result of Notre Dame raising prices but rather the athletic department’s decision not to subsidize the ticket cost for students as it did in 2004.

“That would be something you’d have to do on your own,” associate athletic director John Heisler said of a subsidy for student tickets. “We can do whatever we want, but for the tickets that we receive from the NCAA, there’s only one price. It’s not like they provide a routine student discount.”

Nonetheless, Ticket Office director Josh Berlo said Notre Dame had sold 128 three-day passes to students for this year’s action after selling 115 such passes in 2004. As a whole, the Notre Dame ticket office has sold approximately 265 three-game passes at $65 apiece for this weekend’s events, said Matt McCormack, coordinator of athletic promotions.

But for sophomore Anna Jones, the cost was too steep.

Jones, who attended the team’s conference playoff games and often lined up nearly two hours before Irish hockey home contests, said she immediately decided against going when she saw the dollar figure for the tickets. She said the $65 price tag was too much, especially since a second Notre Dame game isn’t guaranteed.

Although Notre Dame won’t be contributing toward the cost of student tickets, it will provide transportation and food for students as it did three years ago. McCormack stressed that the buses and the meals come at a significant cost to Notre Dame.

“We won’t even come close to breaking even since there are two buses going up without anybody paying – which is great,” McCormack said. “The main thing is to just get a good contingent … of students, who have been great supporting the team all year.”

The promotions office will send three buses to Friday night’s action and, if the Irish win in the first round, to Saturday’s game. Although students could reserve seats on the bus through Thursday for free, the cost for the general public was $25 per person per day, McCormack said.

McCormack said the cost of each bus would be approximately $1,000 per trip, plus gratuities. He said the promotions office has filled one bus with 56 fans from the general public, while about 50 students have reserved seats for Friday and 70 have done it for Saturday.

And while most of the contingent of Irish fans heading up to Grand Rapids on the buses has bought the three-day passes, fans could also buy single-game tickets for $35 through the Van Andel Arena ticket office, where the teams will meet.

The buses will leave from Gate 4 of the Joyce Center at 2 p.m. today and 5 p.m. Saturday, provided the top-seeded Irish win their first contest. Notre Dame plays at 5 p.m. today, and McCormack said the buses likely would return after the second game tonight, so fans could watch Notre Dame’s opponent for Saturday’s second round game. But if there is enough demand to return immediately, McCormack said, one bus may return after Notre Dame’s game.

McCormack said Notre Dame initially received 200 tickets from the arena to sell to students and the public, but the promotions office quickly asked for additional passes because the demand was high.