Winner-peg!

Eric Francis, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:05 AM ET

 VANCOUVER – Two minutes into Winnipeg’s public sale of NHL hockey tickets Saturday, team officials knew the organization would be financially sound for at least the next five years.

It took that long for every seat in the building to be claimed online Saturday by ravenous hockey fans plopping down an average of

$82 per ducat.

A mere 15 minutes later, all their transactions had been completed, and the financial fate of the organization was sealed for the near future.

Team officials were, quite frankly, stunned.

They never fathomed the response would be this great.

In fact, True North’s Scott Brown told QMI Agency a decision had to be made on the fly to cap the waiting list at 8,000 people, as they didn’t feel it would be fair to charge any more people than that $50 to get on the list and $100 annually to stay on it if they didn’t have a legitimate chance to get tickets in their lifetime. Otherwise, it might have climbed to 15,000.

Officials were also shocked how many people took the maximum allotment of four tickets.

Team captain Andrew Ladd said the players have all been watching the fans’ overwhelming response, quelling whatever fears some had about the Great White Unknown.

Word is while some of the players were somewhat disappointed things fell through in Atlanta and/or felt inconvenienced by the move, they’ve all warmed up to the relocation after seeing the tremendous response of the fans. Ladd says not one player is outraged or even hesitant to play there.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped the lads from exchanging endless jokes about how cold it will be.

THE MALHOTRA MIRACLE

Ten minutes before puck-drop in Saturday’s Game 2, chants of “Manny, Manny” rang out in Rogers Arena, welcoming the emotional return of Vancouver Canucks centre Manny Malhotra. Just under two minutes into the contest, they welcomed him in similar fashion.

So remarkable is Malhotra’s comeback, word out of the Canucks dressing room is that the damage to his left eye three months back was so extensive that had he not been a pro athlete, doctors may have opted to take the eye out as opposed to working so exhaustively to repair it. Asked before the game how well he could see out of it, he smiled and said, “Well enough.”

HARTSBURG HIRED

A source in the Calgary Flames organization confirmed the team will indeed announce the hiring of Craig Hartsburg as an assistant coach to Brent Sutter this week as part of a broadening of the team’s hockey operations department.

A well-known assistant GM in charge of player personnel will follow, as will several other hires.

COYOTE NEAR EXTINCT

It’s clear goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will not re-sign with the Coyotes due to all the uncertainty in Phoenix, and because of it, look for his rights to be traded in the next week or two.

Four teams are in the running, including the Philadelphia Flyers.

OFFICIALLY SPEAKING

NHL Hockey Operations guru Mike Murphy said the players were briefed before the Stanley Cup final on three things his officiating crew would be looking for/cracking down on — 1. Embellishment. 2. Creating havoc in and around the crease. 3. Scrums. He said the culprit in any prolonged scrum after a whistle will be singled out and penalized as opposed to handing out off-setting minors.

For the record, Murphy does not feel slighted they handed Colin Campbell’s head discliplinary job to Brendan Shanahan. In fact, he assumes he’ll be one of Shanahan’s right-hand men and agrees it was time for a new approach to discipline.

TAMBELLINI’S TOP PICK

Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini figures an argument could be made for him to select any one of the top five prospects first overall in the upcoming draft. He insists his club hasn’t decided on the clear-cut choice yet and has received a few offers for his pick — offers he will continue to listen to right up until draft day.


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