Winnipeg sell out a slam dunk
TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
|Fans celebrate at The Forks in Winnipeg, Manitoba Tuesday, May 31, 2011. Winnipeg fans came out in full force, gobbling up season tickets in minutes on Saturday, June 4, 2011. (MARCEL CRETAIN/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG -- While thousands of hockey fans are no doubt feeling the sting of getting shut out of True North's wildly successful season ticket drive, this is a proud moment for Winnipeggers.
The NHL and True North Sports and Entertainment wanted us to step up and make a firm commitment to the return of big league hockey and the city came through in a most emphatic fashion.
Seconds after season tickets for Winnipeg's yet-to-be-named NHL hockey team went on sale to the general public, they were gone, snapped up by hockey-hungry fans willing to make a three-to-five-year commitment on tickets that cost thousands of dollars per year.
After losing an NHL team once and spending 15 years in big league purgatory, fans in this city proved without a doubt they are willing to put their money where their mouth is and back up the thousands of joyous individuals who partied in the streets when the deal to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers was announced Tuesday.
This is a clear message to the NHL board of governors, which will meet June 21 in New York to formally approve the transfer of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg.
Can you say uncontested slam dunk?
"It was an extraordinarily impressive statement by the fans in Winnipeg that they are ready to embrace NHL hockey," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an e-mail. "I'm sure our board of governors will certainly take note."
This is a clear message to True North CEO Mark Chipman and business partner David Thomson that they are doing the right thing by bringing an NHL franchise back to a community that has hockey in its soul and was missing a huge part of its identity since the Winnipeg Jets flew south to Phoenix back in 1996.
This is also a clear message to the Thrashers players that they are going to be the toast of the town, bona fide sports heroes who are loyally supported by the rabid hockey fans of our city.
"Holy smokes, that's unbelievable," said Thrashers goalie Chris Mason. "I really can't wait to experience the excitement of playing in front of a sold-out, enthusiastic crowd. It's just going to be crazy. Every hockey player's dream is to play in front of fans like that "¦ I just can't wait."
This is a statement to hockey fans across Canada that we are ready to take back our game and that this should just be the tip of the iceberg. Does anyone think a call for season tickets in Quebec City or Hamilton or the Toronto suburbs would be any different?
Canadians truly love the NHL, in spite of its smarmy American commissioner who rubs most people north of the border the wrong way, in spite of the fact that many teams are located in southern U.S. markets where hockey is about as popular as junior high girls' basketball, in spite of the fact that tickets to games in this country are obscenely expensive and hard to come by.
Which brings us back to Saturday's online general sale of season tickets.
There were so many people trying to buy tickets at once (remember, we're talking about commitments of up to $100,000 for some buyers) that even people who clicked into Ticketmaster's website at noon on the dot were shut out.
There are thousands of people in the city today who are disappointed or downright angry that they didn't get a sniff.
Guess there was a lot of value in being a Manitoba Moose season ticket holder this season and in years before that. Those fans deserved to get priority and should be smiling today after reaping the rewards of loyalty.
The rest of the fans, those who weren't lucky enough to win the Ticketmaster online lottery Saturday, will just have to wait and try to get scarce individual tickets when they go on sale, either through True North or the multitude of re-sale websites.
And hopefully, they'll still think of this as a happy day.
The day Winnipeggers proved without a doubt their city should be a prominent location on the NHL map.