Now that the National Hockey League has officially approved the move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, thereby returning hockey to the Manitoba capital after a 16-year sabbatical, reality has set in: It’s going to be hard to get tickets, for fans and brokers alike.
Hockey-starved fans snapped up all 13,000 season tickets for the Winnipeg franchise — which is expected to retain the Jets nickname it had as a member of the World Hockey Association and NHL from 1972 until it moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes after the 1995-96 season — almost as soon as they were made available. The 6,000 seats that were made available to the general public — the first 7,000 were sold to season ticket holders of the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose — sold out in 17 minutes, which left a lot of disappointed fans, as well as a lot of brokers scrambling for the hard-to-get ducats. Single-game tickets won’t be much easier to acquire: There will be a little more than 2,000 tickets available per game at the MTS Centre, which is the smallest arena in the NHL (15,015).
Making matters more difficult for brokers is the efforts of True North Sports and Entertainment — the parent company of the Winnipeg franchise — to keep the tickets out of the hands of out-of-town brokers. Fans who bought season tickets had to pick them up in person in Winnipeg, and the Winnipeg Free Press reported that True North canceled season ticket orders from those who didn’t follow the terms set by True North.
In addition, whether it was coincidental or not, most offers for season tickets on sites such as Craigslist and eBay disappeared within days of appearing. True North spokesman Scott Brown told the Free Press the team had nothing to do with nudging the resellers offline and that he thought “…it is due to the media coverage” promising punishment for anyone caught scalping tickets.
Resellers who were able to get Winnipeg tickets will be able to name their price: According to the Canadian Press, one broker in Virginia was offering a season ticket package for a tidy $120,000.
Andy Peachey of Philadelphia’s Wanamaker Ticket Office said such exorbitant prices and high demand aren’t surprising given the unique tale of Winnipeg, but that as with most new or relocated franchises, the market should ease up once the novelty wears off.
“I think the initial period will probably be a bit more difficult than it’ll be in a few years,” Peachey told TicketNews. “Fans in Canada just love hockey and they’ve been trying to get a franchise back in Winnipeg. I think there’s going to be a high demand for it so they’re going to sell out a lot of games. It’ll be a bit more difficult than it probably will be in a couple years once they’re used to being back home and not everyone is still trying to get to see them for the first time.”