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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasts Tampa Bay Lightning for blocking ticket sales to Blackhawks fans

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in fulfilling his civic duty, defends the honorable Blackhawks fans, but in the same breath takes a shot at the Lightning organization.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in fulfilling his civic duty, defends the honorable Blackhawks fans, but in the same breath takes a shot at the Lightning organization.
Published Jun. 3, 2015

TAMPA — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired a slap shot Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Lightning for trying to keep Blackhawks fans out of Amalie Arena, all but calling the franchise "chicken."

A day after the Tampa Bay Times noted the frustration in Chicago over the Lightning's stringent playoff ticketing policies — designed to ensure Tampa Bay fans get first chance at tickets — Emanuel sent out a playful press release that defended his hometown fans and encouraged Tampa residents to visit the Windy City during the final.

"Chicago Blackhawks supporters are known to be among the best in the NHL, and certainly we wish the Tampa Bay Lightning management would welcome Chicago fans to their city and not be afraid to let them into their arena for the Stanley Cup finals," Emanuel said.

"As mayor of Chicago, I welcome Tampa fans — and hockey fans from around the country — to fly to Chicago and enjoy our world-class hotels, restaurants, cultural attractions, and then go watch Stanley Cup hockey in Chicago."

Ali Glisson, spokeswoman for Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, did not answer a request for comment.

As they have all playoffs, the Lightning are blocking out-of-state credit cards from purchasing tickets through the team's online portal. It's part of the team's aggressive strategy to prevent an overwhelming presence of opposing fans and maintain a home-ice atmosphere.

In addition to the ticket restrictions, the Lightning are prohibiting spectators from wearing opposing team apparel in the pricey Chase Club and Lexus Lounge areas.

Tampa Bay hosts the first two games of the series, as well as the fifth and seventh games, if necessary.

While the policies are not specifically intended to target them, Blackhawks fans are particularly sensitive to the tactics because they faced similar barriers earlier in the playoffs from the Nashville Predators.

Chicago fans, well known for invading opposing stadiums since the resurgence of the franchise this decade, have been pushed almost entirely to more expensive secondary markets. And it seems they're willing to pay.

According to online resale website StubHub, Illinoisans accounted for 19 percent of tickets purchased for Game 1 as of late Tuesday. Out-of-state opponents typically make up about 5 to 8 percent of sales, StubHub spokesman Cameron Papp said.

Similarly, 30 percent of people looking to buy tickets for a game in Tampa on SeatGeek are from Illinois while 40 percent are in Florida, said Chris Leyden, a content analyst for the resale site. Just 2 percent of Web traffic for the games in Chicago is coming from Florida.

For some Blackhawks fans, a trip to Tampa might actually prove to be a reasonably priced alternative to buying tickets at Chicago's United Center. The average resale price on SeatGeek for Game 1 is $470 per ticket, but it's $985 for Game 3 in Chicago.

Contact Steve Contorno at scontorno@tampabay.com. Follow @scontorno.