The Anatomy of a Comeback

The anatomy of a comeback, from a ticket buyer’s perspective

hockey image 

Post-seasons are filled with great comebacks and epic collapses.  Whether it’s the 1993 Buffalo Bills coming back from 32 points down to beat the Oilers, or the 1986 Red Sox snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, every season has at least one good comeback story.

As for 2013, few will be able to match the May 13 Game 7 finale between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs in round 1 of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs in which the winner would advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.  Though the game was in Boston, the Maple Leafs dominated.  Toronto entered the third and final period up 2-1 and within six minutes had added another two back-breaking goals to increase the lead to 4-1.  What followed over the next hour of real-time will be considered as one of the most improbable comebacks (or collapses, depending on where you’re from) in recent NHL history, in which Boston comes from behind, in overtime, to win the game 5-4.

This is where the view from inside the StubHub database gets interesting.  Because people can sell tickets for contingent events on StubHub – like playoff games which may only be played if necessary – tickets were actually on sale for the Boston Bruins’ next potential playoff match up; Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in Boston.

This game looked more like fantasy than reality at the time of that 4-1 deficit, but you could still buy tickets nonetheless.  By monitoring the sales of those tickets, we took a look at the mindset of Boston Bruins fans as they waited, worried and hoped for their team to pull out a victory.  Here’s a view of the number of orders for that game based on the actual time (in Pacific time) and a summary of the events surrounding it.

graph for hockey article

Point 1: 6:15 pm (Pacific time) – Down 4-1, Boston starts to fight back and answers Toronto’s flurry of goals with one of their own. They close the gap to 4-2. Within minutes, eager and optimistic fans come to the site and start placing orders.

Point 2: 6:35 pm – The turning point in the game. Boston scores two goals, both with under 1 minute and 30 seconds left in regulation. TD Garden is rocking, Toronto is reeling and most interesting of all, ticket buyers are glued to their TVs. Compared to the previous goal, these goals create practically no response on StubHub. The comeback wasn’t just a possibility now, it was a reality. And as every superstitious sports fan knows you don’t get up and jinx the whole thing by buying tickets in the midst of a comeback like this. The game proceeded to overtime shortly after.

Point 3: 7:10 pm – Boston scores in overtime to win the game 5-4. Series over. Pandemonium in Boston and shock in Toronto. One interesting number to look at is how many people bought tickets in the first 5 minutes after the game ended, from 7:10-7:15. The answer? Zero. It’s likely that the celebration was so instantaneous and overwhelming that no one was thinking about going online to buy tickets yet. They were too busy being ecstatic. Within the next ten minutes, orders skyrocketed as delirious fans started to gain their bearings and place orders. At this point the Bruins’ opponent in the next round had not formally been decided. They were scheduled to play the winner of Game 7 between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, and at the time New York was en route to an easy 5-0 victory.

Point 4: 7:40 pm – The Rangers finish off the Capitals and New York buyers get into the act, buying tickets for the upcoming road game in Boston.

We’ll check back in the next time we see a game like this occur so we can see how fans react with their ticket buying. In fact, the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks play a Game 7 tonight, so we have two more passionate fan bases who will be wondering whether their season continues or whether they should make other plans next week. Do you think we’ll see another crazy finish? If you want to see it live, tickets are still available here on StubHub.

©2012 StubHub, Inc. All rights reserved.