NHL in 'Peg jacket, tie affair?

It was a largely blue-collar crowd at the Forks and Portage and Main but right now it’s the suits...

It was a largely blue-collar crowd at the Forks and Portage and Main but right now it’s the suits who are gobbling up season tickets.

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:46 AM ET

The crowds at Portage and Main have been strictly blue jeans and blue-collar.

Come hockey season, though, it looks like it could be more of a jacket-and-tie affair when the NHL struts back into town.

Corporate Winnipeg is gobbling up NHL season tickets like a dieter who fell off the wagon and straight into an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Raising the question: will there be any room at the table for Joe Fan and his lunch bucket?

We’re told just a few hundred seats will be held for individual game sales. So it’s share a season ticket, or bust, for most.

And it’s likely just 5,000 or so season packages will even be available when sales to the general public begin at noon, Saturday.

That’s because as many as 8,000 will have been snapped up in the pre-sale for Manitoba Moose subscribers, many of whom are of the corporate persuasion.

Those include luxury suite holders, each of whom have the option to grab another eight season tickets on top of the 16 to 20 seats in their boxes.

And if they already had season tickets, they can add to them.

“You might have a right as an individual and you might have a right as a corporation,” True North Sports CEO Jim Ludlow said. “And you could do it twice.”

Many are.

Wellington West Capital, for instance, not only renewed its suite, but also upped its season-ticket count from six to 30.

“Our group is going crazy,” CEO Charlie Spiring told me.

Spiring vowed last fall he’d be the first in line to renew his suite, even at triple the old price, and he didn’t disappoint. The guy’s obviously a huge hockey fan — I tracked him down right after he’d left Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver.

Other corporations are, to use the lingo, “maxing out their uptake,” raising the distinct possibility most of the prime seats, aka the lower bowl, will be occupied by business types.

“That becomes sort of the deal with the NHL,” suite holder Blake Fitzpatrick of Maple Leaf Construction said. “It has to be supported, and the corporations are the ones that can afford it.”

No doubt.

But what’s that do to the atmosphere in the place?

We all know how corporate crowds can be. You know, show up an hour late because you were in a meeting, leave early because you’ve got an early meeting — or don’t show up at all.

“There’s the gamble that True North has,” Fitzpatrick said. “They’ve got to keep the enthusiasm up. And as we all know, you’ve got to have a winning team to do that.”

True North’s Ludlow is aware of the pitfalls that can come with the tailored set, but isn’t worried about it, here.

“That hasn’t been our history,” he said. “The corporate in Winnipeg is not a corporate in Toronto.”

Maybe not. But I did see plenty of prime-seat no-shows at Moose games over the years.

Companies like Fitzpatrick’s can probably be counted on to not only fill the seats, but the beer-cup holders in front of them, too.

“In our situation, yeah, it’s a corporate crowd, but it’s our employees going,” he said. “They’re being given the opportunity to go, through us. You’ll see a lot of that. And, yeah, I’d love to be able to see other guys get them, but it’s the reality of NHL hockey — they’ve gotta be sold out.”

Yeah, Gary Bettman made that pretty clear.

And the NHL cares only about what’s in the wallet.

Not what kind of pocket it’s in.n Manitoba Moose season-ticket pre-sale: 7,000-8,000

Ticket pre-sale

— General public season-ticket sale: 5,000-6,000

— Luxury suite seats: 1,000

— NHL holds: 500

— Total: 14,500

— Leaves 500 for individual games

(All numbers are projections)


Photos