SUN Hockey Pool

Many say they're willing to pay price

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

Some paid full freight to send a message to the hockey world. Others were only there because they got a freebie.

But the bottom line was this: more than 13,000 hockey fans paid an average of $70-$80 to see the NHL back in town for one night. An exhibition game, no less, between the Maple Leafs and Phoenix Coyotes.

"I wanted to help make a statement, that this is a city that could support the NHL," 34-year-old Michael Bailey, wearing his Teemu Selanne Jets jersey, said. "That's why I got the most expensive tickets available."

Bailey bought four tickets for $119 each, plus another handful of less expensive seats to distribute to clients.

If the NHL were to return, he says he'd purchase a pair of season tickets, no questions asked. And he predicted enough Winnipeggers to support a team would, too.

His wife, Shauna, wasn't so sure.

"We're too cheap," she said.

Ben Holodryga, a 44-year-old who works at Empire Iron, says he was sitting in a $99, lower-level corner seat only because it was a freebie picked up in a raffle at the Pembina Hotel.

If the NHL came back, Holodryga says he might go to five games a year, but that's it.

"Nobody from work would go," he said.

Cynthia Brown, who works at McDonald Youth Services and bought $110 seats for her and her boyfriend, says it would be the opposite story at her office.

"If you really like hockey, you're going to pay the money," Brown said. "I would go to every single game."

Dave Dube, a 58-year-old managing partner in an insurance company, says he would, too. And he expects to get the chance again, some day.

"You put a good team on the ice, and they'll support it," Dube said. "There's a lot of money in Winnipeg."

In the upper level, where seats were closer to $40, Mike Penner said he'd probably attend half of a full season's 40 games.

"Before 10 years is up, there will be a team here," Penner predicted.

Leafs GM John Ferguson, Jr., who was raised in Winnipeg, says the rising salary cap will make that a challenge. But he wouldn't count his old hometown out.

"The six Canadian markets are selling almost all of our tickets," Ferguson said. "We're in the high 90's (%) in renewals and sales. That, to me, provides support for Winnipeg."


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