Hockey fans from the Ottawa region will be given priority to buy tickets when Senators host the rival Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
The goal is to ensure the Canadian Tire Centre is packed with Senators fans, which is often not the case when the Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leafs are in town.
"To better serve local Ottawa Senators fans, priority for Round 1 home playoff tickets will be given to residents within the National Capital Region, Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec," ticket agency CapitalTickets.ca announced Monday. "Residency will be based on credit card billing address. The Ottawa Senators reserve the right, upon notice, to cancel and refund orders from residents outside the designated area."
Ottawa players were supportive of the initiative when told of the ticket strategy.
"It would be awesome to have all our fans in here," said Senators winger Mark Stone. "We love our fans and they've been great for us over the last season. They stuck behind us. They had a couple of tough stretches this year and they really supported us and obviously we want them to be the ones sitting in the building."
Defenceman Mark Borowiecki, who grew up in the Ottawa region of Kanata where the Canadian Tire Centre is located, says he sees no problem with the Senators wanting to give their fans the best opportunity to see the game.
"You want the rink to be rockin' in your favour," Borowiecki said. "It seems like at the Bell Centre it's all Montreal, but when you come here it's kind of split. It would be nice to come here and have it a little bit more in our favour.
"I'm sure a lot more teams do it than we realize and it's probably a smart move."
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators have similar initiatives.
The Senators released a statement Monday morning in anticipation of fan reaction.
"The practice of giving preference to local ticket purchases is becoming a commonplace throughout all professional sports," it said. "Our goal is to give our own local fans the best opportunity to be here live at Canadian Tire Centre to experience Senators playoff hockey. The response from to our organization from our fans has been overwhelmingly positive and the interest in tickets has been at an all-time high."
The Senators took some heat on social media for the policy
"I find it kind of silly that @Senators will not allow tickets 2 b purchased if you're not from the region. #areyouscared," tweeted one fan.
"All I know is that despite this policy and getting in the queue at 10:00 for both the pre-sale and today's sale, I wasn't able to get tickets to any games," posted another. "If I see busloads of Habs fans coming in while I can't even get a ticket in the first 2-3 minutes of tickets going on sale (at any price range), I'll be less than happy."
Canadiens players had little reaction to the policy.
"That's not my department," said star goaltender Carey Price.