CALGARY - For almost two weeks, Tracey McIntyre was unknowingly carrying $76,307.50 around in her purse.
After buying $30 worth of 50/50 tickets during the Feb. 20 NHL Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium with husband Ray LaPlante, 40, McIntyre, 42, of Airdrie, put the ducats in her bag with plans to check the winning numbers later online.
"When we got home we checked and they weren't posted yet, then it completely slipped my mind and I'd been carrying them around in my bag," she said. Fortunately the winner had 30 days to claim the prize.
Unaware the pot had yet to be claimed, McIntyre's co-workers reminded her to take another look on Wednesday.
"My husband was playing around with the TV because he got a new PS3, and I'm not much of a gamer person so while he was doing that, I checked the numbers," she said.
"I started with his tickets which had different numbers so I wasn't expecting anything, then I was flipping through the rest of them and got very excited because the number was in the series we had."
Calling LaPlante into the room, McIntyre read the winning numbers aloud while he checked them against the tickets. "We ended up jumping around and neither of us believed it," she said.
"We were 99% sure it was real. It wasn't quite 100 percent until we went there (Thursday).
Regulars at Flames, Stampeders and Hitmen games, McIntyre said they always buy 50/50s, but didn't expect to win.
"We see it more as a donation and helping a worthy cause," she said. "That's part of the reason why it took so long to check, too. We had no expectation of winning."
Plans for the windfall, said McIntyre, will be relatively modest.
"We're going to pay some debt, do some minor renovations to the house and my husband's frivolous purchase is he wants to get a 3D TV," she said. "Then maybe we're going to go back to Ontario to see all our family."
It was the biggest 50/50 payout in team history, said Calgary Flames Foundation executive director Natasha Guillot, noting money collected by the foundation will go to good use.
"It will most likely be the Rotary Flames House, the Flames Even Strength Program that helps underprivileged kids play hockey by paying for their registration costs and the Reach Campaign," Guillot said. "It's going to go a long way for us."