There was a point at which simple excitement over the return of hockey to Winnipeg morphed into an all out raging puck boner.
That moment didn’t come when Portage and Main was shut down earlier this week with spontaneous celebration. That was cool and all, but even the peaceful hippies of San Francisco can shut down a street, or several.
No, I knew this whole hockey thing in Winnipeg might be kind of a big deal when the boisterous crowd was at Winnipeg’s infamous intersection for so long that they became bored of just any old chant, and started yelling “Essensa” before eventually turning their attention the street names flashed by passing buses (1:09 mark of the video below).
Yep, I’d say they’re pretty amped. But after the city sobered from its euphoria following the official announcement on Tuesday, would that blinding excitement still drive fans to dig deep into their pockets? That’s an obvious question that we’re finding out has an obvious answer.
Season tickets don’t go on sale to the public until Saturday at 12:00 p.m. CT, but the pre-sale made available to Manitoba Moose season ticket holders started at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday. True North Sports and Entertainment has a goal of 13,000 season ticket holders for the 41 home games plus a sampling of pre-season games at the MTS Centre starting this fall, an arena that seats only 15,000. A meter updated every day at 4:30 p.m. CT on True North’s website currently shows that 1,870 tickets have been sold, meaning that in a matter of hours 93.5 percent of the 2,000 Moose season ticket holders jumped on board.
The amount of season tickets sold and that magic number of 13,000 is significant for the upcoming NHL board of governors meeting on June 21, a meeting that will finalize the purchase of the Thrashers. A vote will be taken to approve the re-location of the franchise, which should be a simple rubber stamp process if the level of public support in Winnipeg is as high as expected.
Season tickets in Winnipeg aren’t a cheap investment either. The best deal in the house are the half season tickets in the far reaches of the upper bowl going for $858. As the seating chart below shows, prices climb to $5,805, with either three or five-year terms available.
Now, if your jaw is touching the floor, kindly pick it back up. The average price paid per game for a full season ticket in Winnipeg is $82, and compared to other Canadian NHL cities that’s tied with Montreal and ahead of only Toronto ($114), original six fan bases that would probably surrender a kidney for season tickets (we don’t recommend doing that, no matter how desperate you are). But the costs are evened out when we factor in the sheer amount of seats at the MTS Centre, which is now the smallest rink in the NHL, clearly decreasing the amount of revenue generated by a single seat.
These are desperate times for tickets in Winnipeg, and a wise man once said that desperate times call for desperate measures. Fans looking to quench their hockey thirst have placed ads on Kijiji offering to buy tickets from the few Moose season ticket holders who won’t be ponying up the extra dollars.
Craigslist in Winnipeg has also been a hotbed of activity, with fans whose pockets can’t handle a full season using the site to connect with others in a similar position.
If the ticket rush during the opening hours of the pre-sale is any indication, it doesn’t look like the Winnipeg Jets/Falcons/Manitobas/Screw you Bettmans will have any problem reaching the mark set by True North. The true test won’t come for a few more years once the initial commitments run out, and fans are asked to sign back on.
That test will be an even greater gauge of the apparently and hopefully revitalized fan base in Winnipeg if the market is being asked to prop up a losing team.
UPDATE: A CBC report indicates that the name of Winnipeg’s new hockey team will not be unveiled until the season ticket drive is over.
Scott Brown, the communications director for True North, said the company wants the public’s focus to remain solely on achieving the goal of 13,000 season tickets.
“We want people to stay focused on the process of getting the 13,000 and getting the franchise secured because if we don’t get to the 13,000, then the signal that sends to the larger hockey community is not necessarily a positive one.”