King-sized commute ahead for junior fan

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Doug Nahrebeski is willing to make the commute.

Despite living in Calgary, Nahrebeski, 46, was at Rexall Place with his family yesterday selecting season tickets for the upcoming Edmonton Oil Kings season.

"I was born in Tofield and I moved to Edmonton when I was six," Nahrebeski said. "When I was eight and nine I used to go to the old Edmonton Gardens with my father to see the Oil Kings play. He wouldn't take my brother or my sister. It used to be just me and my dad that would go see the Oil Kings."

The third incarnation of the major junior hockey team makes its return to Edmonton in September as the newest Western Hockey League expansion franchise.

Yesterday the team opened the doors to Rexall Place giving prospective season-ticket holders a chance to pick out their seats.

"We have 5,997 seats in the lower bowl," said Nick Wilson, the Oil Kings vice president of business operations and alternate governor.

"The business model that we have with max capacity is that number along with the suites. With the suites we'll have about 6,750 seats. The lower bowl is junior configurations."

To this point the Oil Kings have sold close to 2,000 season tickets - 1,312 of which are founders' club memberships.

Their goal is to get to the 3,000 mark by the start of the season in September.

"This event is to sell seats, of course," Wilson said.

"But it will also create some buzz and atmosphere. So we invited those that have bought founders-club memberships to come and actually see what it is ... see what the atmosphere is going to be like.

"So this is an awareness and an experience-building exercise as well as selling seats."

Yesterday's event not only allowed prospective ticket buyers to test-drive their seats. The club also allowed fans to take a spin around the ice.

The target audience for the Oil Kings differs from that of the Oilers, who own the WHL franchise.

The idea for the junior franchise is to provide an affordable and entertaining night out for families.

Considering it generally takes an expansion franchise a few years to become competitive, game-night promotions could be the key to bringing fans back night in and night out.

"I don't remember a lot of the players back when I first started watching the Oil Kings," Nahrebeski said.

"But I remember getting Darcy Rota's autograph along with several others.

"So we're going to make the commute as much as possible. We only have two tickets and we have five family members."


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