Toronto Raptors fan Victor Anjos didn’t think it’d be hard to find takers for his extra NBA playoff tickets.
But he also wasn’t counting on the Toronto Maple Leafs making their own playoff run, a rare feat that has electrified the city and ensnared casual sports fans into the fold of a reinvigorated Leafs Nation.
As a result, Anjos and many other Raptors fans looking to sell some extra tickets — which were in high demand last year when the Leafs missed the playoffs — are finding the secondary market flooded with seats offered at face value and less.
While Raptors tickets during the regular season could often be sold for a profit, now sellers are lucky to find a buyer at all.
"I know a lot of guys who are losing money," sighs Anjos, a season ticket holder who purchased a pair of 300-level and 100-level playoff tickets, anticipating he’d be able to flip two seats at a markup.
Jamie Capstick wasn’t looking to make any money by selling his extra playoff tickets but also had a surprisingly hard time finding takers for his 300-level tickets.
"When I went on the secondary ticket websites I couldn’t believe how much is out there," says Capstick, who adds it was much easier to move his extra playoff tickets last year.
"There’s more supply and I think there’s probably less demand because 1) the Leafs, and 2) because maybe the series (against the Milwaukee Bucks) is not as sexy a series, given (the Raptors) have gotten past the first round (before). So maybe people are waiting to jump in later."
Meanwhile, once tough-to-get Toronto Blue Jays tickets are suddenly being offered at fire-sale prices. While the team’s terrible start to the season is no doubt a factor, even a marquee matchup against the Boston Red Sox this week paled in comparison to the hype surrounding the Buds.
It’s hard to compete with the storybook comeback of Toronto’s energized Maple Leafs led by exciting rookie Auston Matthews. The team last clinched a playoff spot four years ago but suffered a humiliating collapse in Game 7 of the first round, giving up a three-goal lead in the third period before losing in overtime.
Davin Raiha at Western University’s Ivey Business School says the "exceptional circumstance" of the blue-and-white squad winning two games so far against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals has sucked revenue from sports and entertainment rivals alike.
He suspects Leafs-mania is draining audiences from non-sporting events including films, theatre and night clubs.
"People also get turned off from the additional traffic and crowds and other congestion that’s then produced by major sporting events," Raiha says, noting non-sports fans might be deterred from going out to eat or checking out a museum if they suspect hordes of sports fans are crowding downtown streets.
StubHub communications manager Cameron Papp says Toronto is definitely first and foremost a hockey town, and the Leafs trump everything else at the reseller site.
Volume is skewed, too, with supply and demand working in the favour or those looking to sell Leafs tickets — and Raptors and Jays fans seeking a bargain.
While there’s usually about 1,000 Leafs tickets available a few days in advance, Papp estimates, there might be three times that for the Raptors. As for baseball, there may be as many as 5,000 Jays seats on offer, but Papp notes that’s a sport with more games and more secondary tickets in general.
"If all else is the same … Leafs are going to win out. It’s just more of a hockey town."
How this all impacts the city’s soccer team is less clear. The Toronto FC have had two home games so far, but both were before the hockey playoffs started. They return home for a game Friday, the same night the Leafs play in Washington, but less than 400 tickets were available on StubHub early Thursday afternoon.
The Raptors will be back at the Air Canada Centre on Monday for Game 5 of the series. Anjos bemoans what he perceives as a less-enthusiastic Raptors crowd compared to last year’s playoffs run, noting the ACC’s tailgate zone — known as Jurassic Park — hasn’t been as full and is now being shared with Leafs fans.
He says he lost $75 per ticket for his lower-bowl seats in Game 2, and is bracing for more possible losses — especially if both the Leafs and Raptors advance to their respective second rounds.
"It’ll start getting more expensive in the second, third and fourth round and that’s where I think you’ll see bigger losses," he says, admitting he’s resigned to whatever lies ahead.
"Suck it up. What else can you do?"