Fans shut out: Only 96 seats available for general public for Leafs first home playoff game

A CBC/Toronto Star investigation reveals only 96 tickets were ever put on sale for the general public through the online box office for the Leafs' first home playoff game against the Boston Bruins set for Monday at the Air Canada Centre.

Season ticket holders, scalpers, corporations have stranglehold on Leafs tickets CBC/Toronto Star reveal

Even more painful than the Maple Leafs' record in past seasons is the difficulty in getting tickets now they're in the playoffs. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs — it's worse than you ever imagined.

You've long known getting your hands on playoff tickets requires a miracle — or a rich uncle, tens of thousands of dollars for season tickets, or a boss willing to share corporate seats.

But now we know exactly how tough it is.

A CBC/Toronto Star investigation reveals only 96 tickets were ever put on sale for the general public through the online box office for the Leafs' first home playoff game against the Boston Bruins set for Monday at the Air Canada Centre.

Demand is through the stratosphere. After years of Toronto fans suffering in the hockey wilderness, now they're daring to dream of Stanley Cup greatness bolstered by the team's fresh roster of young, talented players.

CBC/Star track the seats

CBC/Toronto Star this week began monitoring the Leafs' online box office to see precisely how many tickets get released through TicketMaster to the general public.

On Monday, there were two "presales" giving first dibs to Maple Leafs insiders.

At 1 p.m. season ticket holders (who already have tickets) got first crack at several hundred extras.

Then at 3 p.m. fans enrolled in the Leafs Nation fan club were granted access to just over one hundred more tickets using a special promotional code.

In total, 672 tickets were put up for sale on Ticketmaster.

By Tuesday at 10 a.m. when those "pre-sales" were over and the box office reopened to the general public, only 96 seats were left over, priced from $175 to $754 per seat. Many of those were near the back rows, with obstructed views or single seats  — with only two pairs on offer.

Fans took to Twitter to vent their frustration.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment acknowledges they've got a supply problem where 90 per cent of all tickets for the 17,929-seat arena (18,201 if you include corporate boxes) are held by season ticket holders, corporations and scalpers.

"We have worked to create additional access for fans by giving away 200 free tickets per game through the Ford Fan Deck and contests as well as one of the best fan viewing experiences in the league with Maple Leaf Square [outside the ACC]," wrote MLSE spokesman Dave Haggith in an email.

Watching on TV from home or a big screen outside the ACC may be the only option for many.

Winnipeg sells 500 seats per game

The Leafs aren't alone in the NHL in having sold the lion's share of their seats to season ticket holders, creating heartache for fans who can't afford the steep prices.

In Winnipeg, with a smaller stadium with a capacity of 15,321 seats, roughly 13,000 seats are held by season ticket holders. However, the Winnipeg Jets insist they have barred scalpers or brokers from owning any of the supply.

Toronto Maple Leafs players take part in a drill during a practice session in Toronto on Monday, April 9, 2018, as the team prepares for their opening playoff round against the Boston Bruins. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

For each playoff game, the Jets sold off an additional 1,200 tickets, ensuring 500 tickets per game were left over for the general public when the online box office opened to all fans.

Scalpers cashing in

For diehard fans who desperately need to attend the playoff games (and don't want to watch for free on CBC TV!) buying tickets from scalper websites at inflated prices may be the only option.

CBC/Toronto Star also monitored reseller websites like StubHub, VividSeats, Seat Geek and a variety of "broker" websites and found hundreds of tickets available, if you're willing to pay a premium.

Average ticket prices on StubHub were $616 per ticket, while several broker sites offering premium gold and red seats had listings at an average cost of $702 per ticket.

Too much for many.

"I'm now reminded of that time I drove to Carolina for a Leafs playoff game," wrote fan Erica @carebearica.

"Gas, ticket and hotel for two nights was cheaper than one ticket in Toronto. And I sat with fans, not guys in suits who miss half the game. Sometimes I hate this hockey market!"  

Please send story tips to dave.seglins@cbc.ca.