What a week it's been in Winnipeg.
The big announcement comes through on Tuesday that the NHL is returning to the River City. The press conference is live-streamed on virtually every computer in the city, ensuring that work-place productivity was at an all-time low. The parties at The Forks and at Portage and Main start early in the day and continue into the wee hours of the night. "Go Jets Go" chants erupt at random roughly every 5 minutes from every lounge and restaurant you walk by. 15 years after the Jets were ripped from us and relocated to the Arizona desert (how is that going, by the way?), Winnipeg is back in the big leagues!
From all of the celebrating and partying comes the realization that True North Sports and Entertainment has purchased the Atlanta Thrashers. However, the sale is considered to be conditional, as it will still require approval from the NHL Board of Governers when they meet on June 21. In order to show the BoG that Winnipeg means business, TNSE puts forth the "Drive to 13,000" season-ticket drive to ensure that each seat in the building is bought and paid for. As the pricing chart shows, season tickets were divided into 7 sections, and the average price for these tickets turns out to be $82 per game which would be in the top-10 in the entire league. Isn't Winnipeg super cheap? Is there any possible way that this "small-market" can reach this goal?
In an effort to show appreciation to the fans in Winnipeg that supported the Manitoba Moose during the NHL's absence, TSNE created a pre-sale option where Moose season ticket and mini-pack holders would get first crack at NHL tickets. Despite the fact that I was blogging for the Moose on Nucks Misconduct, I foolishly discontinued my Moose mini-pack last year. Nice decision dummy. So I needed to wait until the general sale started. No problem, right?
Wrong. After the first day of the pre-sale,there were 1,870 tickets gone. When Day 2 had come and gone, 4,170 tickets were spoken for. And when the final day of the pre-sale was over, 7,158 of the 13,000 were bought and paid for. Before the general public even had a chance to get tickets, over 50% of the tickets were gone. Despite feeling okay about the prospects of getting tickets all week long, I was starting to get nervous.
We had a group of 8-9 that wanted to go in on 4 tickets. We were so anxious to get tickets that we had 5 laptops in the same living room set up, with all of our information ready to go, and we counted down the moments to 12-noon this past Saturday. We were hoping to get tickets in P4, and our back-up plan was to go the upper deck in P6. We were 5 of probably thousands of people ready to go. And the clock strikes noon.
The website goes live. We all access the Ticketmaster website. We all try for 4 tickets in P4. We are shut out. Panic ensues. We had one of our guys try for 4 tickets in P6. Nothing. I'm on my cell phone with my wife who is at home, and she is trying to get 4 tickets anywhere. It's not working. Our hopes and dreams were crumbling. We go down to 2 tickets and try every section. Nothing still. The room is deathly quiet, save for my one pal who is cursing very loudly. One buddy tries 1 ticket in P6. It works! Let's try it again! We get a second one! Then a third! Finally I get a 4th! We did it! While we were going strong, we try for a 5th and get it under a different account! Success! Panic and chaos turns to bliss and celebrating! We did it!
17 minutes after the website goes live, all 13,000 tickets are spoken for. My Twitter and Facebook timelines become flooded with people either celebrating their own successful ticket purchases or displaying their dismay for not getting any of them, and unfortunately the latter heavily outweighed the former. But it doesn't matter to me because I am in the building!
Needless to say, this is a very exciting time for the city of Winnipeg. The BoG has no reason not to approve the sale to Winnipeg now, especially after this amazing showing of financial support. The Globe and Mail penned an excellent article outlining the fact that True North is poised to earn $1.23M per game from these 13,000 season tickets, or a rough total of $50M per season! And that is before the remaining 2,000 tickets are spoken for! Not to mention the board ads, local TV and radio deals, and the profit on every beer sold in the MTS Centre. Can you say "gold mine"?
Instead of asking if or when the NHL would ever return to Winnipeg, we now get to ask actual questions pertaining to our team. What will their new name be? Who will be the new GM? How about the coach? Who will we draft 7th overall later this month? Which unrestricted free agents should we target on July 1st? What song should the team skate out to? It looks like Rick Dudley is out as GM and that Kevin Cheveldayoff has been offered the job, and rumor has it that Claude Noel has the inside track to be the new coach at the expense of Craig Ramsay. As for the rest of these questions, they will remain to be seen, but questions about whether or not Winnipeg can support an NHL franchise? Those are now a thing of the past. Welcome back NHL. We missed you and are so pumped that you're back in Winnipeg!