Some of my fondest memories in life involve me, my dad, and sports.
The smell of Toronto's old Exhibition stadium in late May, a mixture of peanuts, hot dogs, and Lake Ontario (when Lake Ontario still had a pleasant odor). My dad explaining the intricacies of my first game between the Jays and Bosox, the old ticket stubs.
The feeling of my dad putting me up on his shoulders in the cramped confines of Maple Leaf Gardens to watch Rick Vaive skate up the right wing and put the puck in the net. That year, from what I recall, the crowd roared extra loud because Vaive was on the way to scoring 50 goals, something no Toronto Maple Leaf had ever done.
Those buildings are gone now, and so is the chance for a lot of children to experience some of the magical moments that I once enjoyed.
The corporate suits have been game changers, and not for the betterment of sports.
We have come to a period in time where the Gordon Gecko types have used their greed to stomp on the chances of many families to create memories at our local ballparks and arenas.
NHL ticket prices are up 4.8 per cent, and Canadian fans pay the most.
Not shocking is the fact that a Toronto Maple Leafs ticket is the costliest in the league, an average non-premium seat is $123.77.
Not to be outdone the newly minted Winnipeg Jets are in second with an average seat for $98.27.
Back in the no so distant past, 1991, you could buy a seat in the Grey section at the old Maple Leaf Gardens for $16.
So what's changed?
Sure salaries are part of the equation.
In the 90s, salaries began to skyrocket in both the NHL and NBA. From 1990 to 1998, the average NHL salary more than quadrupled. Wayne Gretzky, without question the best hockey player of all time was paid $3 million to play for the LA Kings. Less than a decade later, Joe Sakic, was paid more than five times what "The Great One" had received.
That is a genie that will never be put back in the bottle. Athletes' salaries will only get higher.
There is, however, another reason that tickets are exorbitant and rare.
Currently companies across Canada are able to write off private boxes and sporting tickets as a cost of doing business. Meaning that companies can afford to snatch up tickets and entertain clients, leaving the average family with little disposable income to fight over the leftovers.
If you watch any Leafs game, look closely at the first few rows of the Air Canada Centre. A lot of the time while the game is in play, those seats are empty as the fat cats eat sushi behind the scenes, paying little attention to the on-ice action.
Good news: There are signs however that this practice may be in jeopardy. I can hear you cheering already!
Last week Ontario's Finance Minister Dwight Duncan wrote to his Federal counterpart asking him to work with the province to help get rid of the subsidies for business. "Hopefully, Leafs tickets will become affordable for families," Duncan said. "I know when a mom and dad take their kids out to a Leafs game, they don't get a tax break."
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty shot the idea down quickly .
There were immediate objections to those that feel their Golden Goose is being slaughtered.
Ottawa Senators president, Cyril Leeder is upset. Leeder believes that if the province goes ahead with this proposal, his team will go out of business.
He may be right. His team offers the lowest average ticket price of all seven Canadian NHL teams.
That being said, almost 50 per cent of Senators season tickets are written off by business.
Which begs the question, if you need the business community to prop up your team, is it a team worth keeping?
As much as I would describe myself as a capitalist, that little boy I was telling you about earlier wants your kids to be able to enjoy sports the way that he did.
In the world of billionaire owners, millionaire players, and companies looking for breaks to get seats, it's still important to keep in mind the memories that sports can create for kids.
Making those experiences more affordable is priceless. Although MasterCard probably wouldn't approve of this message.
Follow Ryan Doyle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ryandoyleshow