NCAA

Bills tickets in Toronto now more affordable

Bills tickets in Toronto now more affordable

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) With an agreement nearly in place to have the Buffalo Bills continue playing an annual home game in Toronto beyond this season, Rogers Communications executives are confident this north-of-the-border experiment can succeed.

Just not at any ticket price.

After having difficulty selling out the first six games - including two during the preseason - organizers have drastically reduced ticket prices.

The average price for a ticket for Buffalo's ``home'' game against the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 16 in Toronto will be $99. That's down from about $160 in 2008, when the series began.

``I really think the thing that impacted this thing negatively in the past is price-point on tickets,'' Greg Albrecht, the series' newly appointed executive director, said Monday. ``In all of our marketing, that's what we hammered home was ticket-pricing has been reduced, not because the product on the field is any worse or better, it's because we were not aligned with the rest of the NFL teams.''

Albrecht said the Toronto series average ticket is still about $17 above the NFL average, which he believes is acceptable because the game is a once-a-year event. It's still a marked drop from the first year, when prices ranged from $99-$275. This year, they range from $48-$225.

The reduction comes at a time when the series is set to expire. The game against the Seahawks is the finale of the five-year deal reached between the Bills and Rogers, the Toronto-based communications company giant.

Albrecht said negotiations to renew the series are nearly complete.

``I think we still have to dot a few I's and cross a few T's. I think it's more administrative at this point,'' he said. ``But we're obviously confident that we'd like to move this thing forward.''

The Bills are in favor of extending the series, because it provides them a foothold in Canada's largest city and financial capital. With Toronto only about a two-hour drive from Buffalo, the Bills have also been able to lure Toronto-area fans to attend games at Orchard Park.

The team estimates that 15 percent of its season-ticket base is from southern Ontario.

The formal announcement of a series extension is not expected until early next year. One holdup is the Bills are in negotiations with state and county officials to renew their lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium, which expires in July.

Progress has been made in lease negotiations since stalling in late summer. But talks are temporarily on hold because New York officials have spent the past month directing much of their attention on the lasting effects of Superstorm Sandy.

Rogers agreed to pay the Bills $78 million to play eight games (including three preseason) at the downtown domed 54,000-seat Rogers Centre. It's unknown whether the entire amount was paid after a scheduling conflict in August led to Rogers having the Bills take back a preseason game that was set to be played in Toronto.

An extension of the series is expected to be similar to the previous deal, with Buffalo playing one annual regular-season game in Toronto, though it's unclear how many - if any preseason games - will be included this time.

Despite enduring numerous growing pains, Rogers remains committed to making the series work.

``I think it would be silly for us to say, `We're not going to entertain moving this thing forward,' after quite honestly some of the pain that we've faced in the past years of learning,'' Albrecht said. ``We have our learning now, and I think this game will prove we're on the right path.''

Albrecht, who took over the series in August, has stopped the previous practice of giving away tickets in order to draw larger crowds. He's also worked on turning the game into more of an entertainment event.

He's already scored a coup by signing South Korean rap sensation PSY to perform during half time. PSY's ``Gangnam Style'' has become YouTube's most-viewed video, generating more than 840 million views.

``I think just being topical and being fun: That's what this whole thing is all about,'' Albrecht said. ``We're opening it to not just die-hard football fans, but opening it up to people who might be on the fence right now, or folks who want to spend an afternoon wanting to have a good time.''

Albrecht has a broad background in overseeing sports and entertainment projects, including the 2010 Vancouver Games and two Canadian Football League Grey Cup championships.

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Pittsburgh at Wake Forest How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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Pittsburgh at Wake Forest How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Pittsburgh Panthers are gelling as a football team, winning three straight games heading into this weekend. Pitt is now 5-1 in the ACC this season, and they currently sit atop the standings in the Coastal Division.

They'll be looking to make it four in a row by beating the Demon Deacons, who are 2-4 in  conference play and 5-5 overall. Wake Forest won their first two games of the year, and have gone 3-5 since, though they are coming off a strong 27-23 victory at 14th-ranked NC State last week.

Still, Pitt is favored by 6.5 points. A win today would help the Panthers maintain control of their own destiny within the ACC Coastal.

Here's how to watch.

PITT PANTHERS vs. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS: HOW TO WATCH

What: Unviersity of Pittsburgh Cavaliers at Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Where: BB&T Field, located in Winston Salem, NC.

When: Saturday, November 17 at 12 p.m. EST

TV Channel: The Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

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Tom Wilson does the little things in Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win at Colorado

Tom Wilson does the little things in Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win at Colorado

To call it a hit is generous. To call it a huge play is accurate. 

Capitals forward Tom Wilson backed into a loose puck along the boards in the defensive zone of Friday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. He waited for a hit sure to come from behind. 

Colin Wilson, the Avalanche center, moved in to dislodge the puck. Instead he got dislodged from gravity. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Tom Wilson, barely moving and braced for contact, used his own leverage to launch Colin Wilson into the air, arms and legs akimbo. 

By the time Colin Wilson crashed to the ice, Tom Wilson had chipped a blind backhand pass to center ice, where Alex Ovechkin stopped it with his skate, dropped it to teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who gave it back as they entered the offensive zone. Ovechkin crossed from left to right and ripped a shot past former teammate Philipp Grubauer in goal for Colorado. 

It was a wonderful pass from Backstrom, who put the Avalanche on their heels. Ovechkin’s shot was a bullet that left little chance for Grubauer. But make no mistake – it all started with Wilson, who was prepared to take a hit to make a play. It is those little things that the Capitals missed during Wilson’s 16-game suspension by the NHL. It was the little things that helped them to a 3-2 overtime victory.  

“[Wilson] brings so much energy to this group,” Backstrom said. “He’s everywhere out there. That’s what we need. He’s playing PK, he’s playing power plays, he’s doing everything. He’s a valuable guy in this group so we’re happy to have him back.”

The game-winning goal in overtime by Backstrom was a perfect example. Wilson took a drop pass from defenseman John Carlson 12 seconds into overtime with Washington on a 4-on-3 power play. That’s when he went to work. 

For six seconds Wilson and Avalanche center Carl Soderberg did battle along the right boards high in the offensive zone. Just as Wilson was knocked to the ice, he slipped a pass back to Backstrom alone at the point. 

With Soderberg on top of him and both out of the play, Wilson watched Backstrom take advantage of the extra space in what effectively became a 3-on-2. He passed to Carlson in the right faceoff circle and then got the puck back in the high slot and beat Grubauer blocker side for the win. That doesn’t happen without Wilson. 

“When you’re playing with good players, you just try and keep it simple, win your battles and they’ll do the rest,” Wilson said. “And that’s exactly what happened on both those plays. At the end there, I thought about throwing it across the ice a couple times, but I’m not that comfortable out there yet so just kind of ragged on the wall and waited. Nicky got open for me and made it easy, I just threw it over to him and it was in the back of the net.”  

The Ovechkin goal put Washington ahead 2-1 at 18:29 of the second period. The Backstrom winner came 22 seconds into overtime. Wilson, in his third game back after his original 20-game suspension was reduced by a neutral arbitrator, played a career-high 24 minutes, 24 seconds. He moved to the power play for 4:19 with T.J. Oshie out with an upper-body injury and contributed 1:35 on the penalty kill – a little less than usual. 

Wilson played on the PK for 5:23 in his first game back Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. He scored a goal in that game, too, by driving the net hard and has been a jolt of energy for a team that was scuffling coming into a difficult four-game road trip. The Capitals are 2-1-0 with one game left Monday at the Montreal Canadiens. 
 
“Tom is one of those guys that was vocal in our room, vocal on the bench that we’re fully in control of that game still even though we gave up the late goal,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “But that’s a tough start [after the suspension], three in four, and then add in the altitude and the minutes that we’re counting on him playing because they aren’t easy minutes. And then obviously having to chase around that top line tonight from Colorado is no easy task. Just really happy with the fact that we got him back a little earlier than was originally set up for us. It’s been a good bounce for our team.” 

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