Photo: Neal Jones

Who needs tickets? Who’s buying? Who’s selling?

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By Janet Robson

It’s an hour before game time, but fans are already swarming outside Maple Leaf Gardens prepared for a face-off.

Persistent scalpers are looking for buyers, and hockey fans are looking for the best seats at the best price.

To get decent seats for a good price, you must be smart. For instance, decking out in Lead paraphernalia will get you nowhere. You have to be cool, not anxious and you have to look like you know what you are doing, even if you don’t.

The best time to get cheap tickets is just before the game. You can get tickets earlier if you don’t want to miss anything, but you’ll pay more. Just before the game, scalpers are desperate, especially if they still have a handful of tickets.

They first ask how much you’re looking to spend. Never tell them. Turn the question around, and ask how much they’ll take. Always remember, scalpers can be talked down and lying always helps.

“Come on, the guy down there is selling the same for a lot cheaper. You’re never going to get rid of them at that price.”

Or you can tell scalper the truth. “Come on, the Leafs suck, and the game is on TV tonight anyways.”

Make them think of the position he is in and make an offer that is low. If he refuses, walk away, but if he follows, there’s room to negotiate.

Some games are easier to get tickets for than others. Tickets are cheaper through the week, especially Mondays. Weekend games can get pricey.

It also depends on which team is in town. Montreal games are the most expensive. When the Canadiens are in town, grey tickets can go for between $70 and $100, a $75 markup, and a pair of gold seats can be sold for $650 to $800. But Montreal games are often worth paying a little more for — anticipate a game of high rivalry and high spirit.

But prices plummet when basement teams such as the LA Kings and San Jose Sharks or teams without star players like the Tampa Bay Lightning are here.

When the stars come to Toronto expect a rise in prices. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Eric Lindros always attract a crowd willing to pay more to see their favourites.

How the Leafs are playing is another factor. When on a losing streak, like now, prices are low and sometimes below cost. But if the Leafs are nearing the end of the season, fighting for a playoff spot, prices will go up.

Scalpers can be tough but you can outsmart them. Never negotiate within a group, never buy from the first scalper you talk to (even if the price is right) and always come across as an informed buyer, not an enthusiastic fan.

Approach Maple Leaf Gardens, be cool confident and be prepared for a real face-off.

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