The death of paper ticket stubs in the digital era has some Canucks fans torn

Framed on the wall of ticket broker Kingsley Bailey’s downtown Vancouver storefront is an array of tickets to events like the Stanley Cup playoffs, Grey Cup, Indianapolis 500 and even a Barry White concert at London’s Wembley Arena.  

He says the display sparks conversations with customers.

“They see my collection of ticket stubs, they reminisce on the old days and I say, ‘Yeah, you know, those days are gone. They’re never coming back,'” said Bailey, who operates Vancouver Ticket Services.

The growth of digital ticketing has exploded since the last time the Vancouver Canucks hosted a home playoff game in 2015, and traditional tickets printed on cardstock have increasingly become a thing of the past.

Some fans welcome the convenience that comes with digital tickets, while others miss ticket stubs that bring back memories of a specific time and place.

Ticket broker Kingsley Bailey stands in front of his collection of tickets
Ticket broker Kingsley Bailey says the collection of old tickets at his downtown Vancouver storefront can spark nostalgia in customers. (Jon Azpiri/CBC)

Longtime Canucks fan Jackie White of White Rock, B.C., says she recently attended a game at Rogers Arena and was reminded that she went home without a ticket stub to add to a collection she’s been maintaining since the ’80s. Growing up, she would sometimes write the final score of the game on the back of the stub to help preserve the memory. 

She says she understands the arguments in favour of digital tickets – that they’re more convenient and more secure – but something is lost when entry to an event requires only a code displayed on a smartphone. 

“It’s such a shame that something so simple has been just phased out,” White said. 

Some prefer the ‘the old-school way’

Bailey says digital tickets have been available for years and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to the point where tickets are now almost exclusively distributed digitally. 

He says, to his knowledge, ticket holders without a smartphone can still receive a paper ticket prior to the game by going to the team’s box office on the day of the game, which is inconvenient. 

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Bailey believes the switch to digital has allowed sports teams to better control distribution and collect market data. 

“[It] enhances their information on their customer base and isn’t that what every company wants to know? Who are their customers?”

He says he hears from corporate clients who feel offering physical tickets to a valued client or customer has a personal touch that doesn’t come with transferring them digitally. 

Photo of Vancouver Canucks 'superfan' Clay Imoo.
Canucks fan Clay Imoo says he appreciates the convenience that comes with digital tickets. (CBC)

“They kind of like the old-school way where they can hand them a ticket,” he said. 

Clay Imoo, a YouTuber and self-described “Canucks superfan,” says he welcomes the convenience that comes with digital tickets.

He says for many fans, particularly younger ones, the switch to digital is only natural, given how tied they are to their smartphones — for them, using a paper ticket makes as much sense as using a rotary phone. 

“They’re used to doing everything — all their work, all their purchasing — everything from their device,” Imoo said.

Imoo says he prefers to collect jerseys and other memorabilia rather than his old tickets. 

White says she understands why people collect other types of sports memorabilia, but to her, ticket stubs have a unique appeal, rekindling memories of long bus rides with her father to Pacific Coliseum to watch ’80s-era Canucks teams captained by Stan Smyl. 

“The hockey stubs are really sentimental to me because … all the games I went to were always with my dad so there’s this family bond,” she said.

Ticket stubs as collector’s items

The sense of nostalgia that comes with old ticket stubs, and their growing scarcity, have led to growing demand from collectors, says one sports collectibles store owner. 

“Old tickets have jumped up … in value, just simply based on the fact that they aren’t made anymore,” said Sean Bowser, who runs the Great Canadian Sportcard Company in Port Moody, B.C.

“So significant events that happened, whether it be breaking a record or anything of that nature — the tickets are worth a lot of money.”

Bowser says he recently sold an old ticket stub to the men’s gold medal hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games for $500.

He notes the shift to digital means fans won’t have such keepsakes in the future.

The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes recently played their last home game before relocating to Utah next season. A ticket to the Coyotes’ final game at Tempe’s Mullett Arena is the kind of memento some fans would covet, Bowser says, but in today’s digital world “you aren’t going to have a physical ticket for that anymore.” 

A hand holding a cell phone with the Ticketmaster ticket app visible with a Paul McCartney ticket.
Nearly all major event organizations have transitioned away from physical tickets to digital-only tickets. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Imoo says while he’s not one to keep ticket stubs, he has a few lying around — even if it’s for an event he’d rather forget. 

“I’m pretty sure if I had to look, I would find my Game 7 from June 15, 2011,” he said, referring to his ticket to the deciding Stanley Cup final game that the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins.

“I know I got that somewhere in a drawer, but I’m not the type who will frame it,” said Imoo. “Maybe it’s because we didn’t win that game.”


Posted in CBC