SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers a hot ticket once again

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

The buzz is back.

If the 48 hours after Wednesday's announcement of a tentative collective bargaining agreement means anything, the Edmonton Oilers won't have any problem selling out every seat at Rexall Place when they open the 2005-06 NHL season against the Colorado Avalanche Oct. 5.

While there's plenty of work to do to win back fans after a lockout that had spanned 301 days when the proposed deal was announced - including a ratification vote next week - the telephones have been ringing off the hook at Oilers offices.

"A lot of people said, 'Right on' and that it's fantastic," said Oilers president Patrick LaForge, who left for New York with governor Cal Nichols, GM Kevin Lowe and assistant GM Scott Howson last night. "We had some people say, 'I know I said I was going to cancel my tickets, but I lied.' A lot of that."

LaForge said the team received about 200 calls on Wednesday, about four times the normal volume for a typical July day. A lot of those calls were from people inquiring about season tickets.

According to LaForge, the team, which has about 12,000 deposits on season tickets, sold more than 20 new packages by noon yesterday. That might not sound like very many, but LaForge says that represents booming business.

"People are saying they want to be back at Rexall Place," he said. "Those 20 packages are damn good, by our standards.

"The No. 1 caller was the guy phoning to say, 'Did anybody cancel any good seats? I'd like to get my hands on those.'

"We haven't, since I've been here, sold that many tickets on a July afternoon. I'd say it's positive times three."

While LaForge was guarded in his comments after the initial announcement, the anticipation of the upcoming season, a lottery for the entry draft July 30, potential rule changes and an expected free-agency frenzy have created a buzz he hasn't heard in a long, long time.

"I haven't since this much excitement since the WHA teams came into the league in 1979 and everybody wanted to see how good this kid Gretzky was going to be," LaForge said.

"There's a lot of stuff going on."

On top of all that, fans have a date to circle on the calendar - the season opener against Colorado Oct. 5, pending ratification of the CBA. The NHL schedule should be released next Thursday or Friday.


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