In the spring of 2012, Philadelphia Flyers season ticket holders filed a class-action lawsuit in New Jersey court against Comcast-Spectacor, owners of the team. It was all related to the 2012 Winter Classic.
Full-season plan holders claimed that they had purchased 44 games as part of their deal -- 41 regular season home games and three preseason games. The NHL didn't announce until late September 2011 that the Flyers had been awarded the 2012 Winter Classic, and by that point, season ticket plans were already purchased.
So when the Winter Classic replaced one of the Flyers regular 41 home games, Comcast-Spectacor refunded fans 1/44th of the plan price to each full-season ticket holder. But the fans claimed that this did not make them whole, since in order to actually get tickets to the Winter Classic, they had to also purchase tickets to the Winter Classic Alumni Game and a Phantoms outdoor game that was held later in the week. The Winter Classic ticket was also more expensive than the game otherwise would have been, and there were extra processing fees tacked on to the total cost as well.
I don't have a dog in the fight, but it sounds like a legitimate gripe to me. If you were promised 41 home games at X cost, and the team reversed on that after the fact and asked you to pay far above what you were originally promised, you'd be pretty irritated too, right? Even considering that the Winter Classic is obviously worth a higher price than a regular home game, that the Flyers asked fans to pay for the other events plus processing fees was certainly excessive.
Comcast-Spectacor and the ticket holders settled out of court in late 2013, and the team has continued to deny any wrongdoing whatsoever, but this issue has had a major impact on how the NHL does business regarding their outdoor games. It's actually the reason why there are only two outdoor games during the 2014-15 NHL season.
Via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, here's NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly calling the lawsuit -- filed by fans of his league, remember -- "crazy."
"I mean, it's crazy when you think about it, but basically they got sued because they removed a regular-season game from the season-ticket package and didn't make it available to the fans on the basis that they'd be able to buy it at [Wells Fargo Center]," Daly said. "There was no judgment, but there was a settlement."
As a result, the league told each team to change the language in their season ticket agreements, but several teams had already sent renewal notices to their plan holders before Daly and the NHL suggested those changes.
The Star-Tribune reports that some teams, like the Minnesota Wild, had already sent out their notices, while others like the San Jose Sharks had not. The Sharks were able to get the modified language in their notices, and that's why they'll be hosting an outdoor game this season. The Wild and others, meanwhile, will wait until next year and beyond. All thanks to Flyers fans.
* * *
Correction: We previously stated that the Flyers had refunded 1/41st of the season-ticket package cost to fans. The correct figure is 1/44th.