Winnipeg has silenced the doubters, says mayor
Published Saturday, June 4, 2011 10:05PM EDT
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz says his city has silenced any doubts that it wouldn't be able to support an NHL franchise, after a season ticket drive sold out in only 17 minutes.
"I'm sure many people are a little surprised," Katz told CTV News Channel Saturday night, adding that he always knew Winnipeg had the most "passionate" NHL fans around.
"Everyone right now is elated," said the mayor, noting that it will be a historic day when the puck drops in Winnipeg next season.
True North Sports and Entertainment announced Saturday that they had reached their goal of selling 13,000 season tickets for Winnipeg's new NHL franchise.
Not only that, but they did it in 17 minutes. Driveto13.com, True North's season ticket campaign website, was trumpeting its success shortly after tickets went on sale to the general public at noon local time.
When asked if more season tickets would be opened up for disappointed fans, Katz said that wasn't likely, given the size constraints in the arena.
"At this point in time, it's sold out," he said, noting that he also shelled out personally for tickets.
Jim Ludlow, president of True North Sports and Entertainment, was grateful on Saturday for the community excitement that led to the sellout.
"We would like to take a special moment to thank all of our fans in Winnipeg and Canada for their support over the past week, in particular, the overwhelming response of our fans which has resulted in a successful 'Drive to 13,000' campaign," Ludlow said in a statement.
More than 7,100 tickets had already been snatched up over the past three days by AHL Manitoba Moose season ticket holders, who were allowed to buy early.
The still-unnamed NHL team has been the talk of the town since True North confirmed the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers earlier this week, after weeks of speculation.
Still, the speed of the sellout took many by surprise, including NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
"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," Bettman said in a statement.
The agreement between the Atlanta Spirit Group and True North, led by True North Chairman Mark Chipman and the billionaire chair of the Thomson Reuters group David Thomson, is reportedly worth $170 million, of which $60 million will go to the league in relocation fees. The team will move in time to begin the 2011-12 season in Winnipeg.
Winnipeg's MTS Centre can accommodate 15,000 fans, making it the smallest venue in the league. True North hopes to sell 13,000 season tickets before the June 21 NHL Board of Governors meeting, as evidence of the team's strong fan support.
Individual tickets ranged from $39 for an entry-level seat, up to $129 for the best seats in the house.
Ludlow has given little indication of where the ownership is leaning in terms of a possible name, or even whether the team will be styled as a Winnipeg or Manitoba franchise.
Many fans would like to see the return of the Jets name, in honour of the NHL team that left Winnipeg in 1996.
Other names rumoured to be in the mix include the Manitoba Falcons -- which would pay homage to Canada's first Olympic gold medal-winning hockey team, the 1920 Winnipeg Falcons -- and the Manitoba Moose.