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Season tickets sell out for NHL's return to Winnipeg

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The still-unnamed Winnipeg NHL franchise met its goal of selling 13,000 season tickets within minutes of making ticket packages available to the general public Saturday.

Sold in plans that required up to a five-year commitment, the tickets were gobbled up by fans hungry for the first sight of NHL hockey since the Jets left for Phoenix in 1996.

The league announced on Tuesday that the Atlanta Thrashers had been sold to True North Sports & Entertainment, which plans to move the team to Winnipeg’s MTS Centre pending expected approval from the NHL’s board of governors on June 21.

The day the deal was announced, True North started a campaign called “Drive to 13,000,” to sell that many season tickets in order to demonstrate that fans and businesses will support the team — and persuade the board to approve the move. Seven tiers were created, with prices ranging from $39 to $129 and averaging $82 per ticket. The arena will be the NHL’s smallest, with a capacity of just over 15,000.

Priority was given to season ticket holders for the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, which played in that building and has been forced to move.

“While I had no doubt the 'Drive to 13,000' would reach its destination, the remarkable speed at which it got there certifies the fans' hunger for NHL hockey and their commitment to True North's initiatives,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

True North, recognizing it can profit from the initial demand for tickets, created a membership-only waiting list that requires fans to pay a nonrefundable, $50 deposit per seat. That money won’t be applied to any future purchase should tickets become available.

At the beginning of the second season an annual $100 membership fee will be charged to retain membership on the waiting list. Those fees will be applied to an eventual ticket package but won’t be refunded to those who later decide not to buy tickets — which could happen if the initial excitement wears off or the team heads south in the standings, if not geographically.

— Helene Elliott in Vancouver, Canada

Photo: Hockey fans in Winnipeg celebrate after it was announced that the NHL franchise in Atlanta would be moved to Canada. Credit: Fred Greenslade / Reuters

 
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