The Winnipeg Jets' move into the digital age will not come with fees for printing off tickets or forwarding them to friends, family or clients.
Jim Ludlow, president and CEO of True North Sports & Entertainment, did his best to quell a firestorm that erupted Monday after season-ticket holders started receiving their season-ticket packages in the mail.
But instead of a book of brightly coloured tickets featuring the logos of the Jets and all of their opponents -- like they received last year -- they found a season-ticket card and a booklet explaining the first phase of the team's "digital ticketing platform."
The booklet details how the primary ticket holder can use the card to enter the MTS Centre for Jets games on their own, forward tickets for individual games to other people in their group or clients, print off paper tickets to games, or have them printed off at the arena's will-call.
But it was the explanation that, after this season, there would be a ticket-forwarding administrative fee of $2.50 that sent disgruntled Jets fans to Twitter and Facebook to express their indignation about higher costs for future years.
But the Jets' policy on the $2.50 fee apparently changed overnight. Ludlow said that, unlike the policy outlined in the booklet given to ticket holders, there will not be a fee next season or any subsequent season for forwarding or printing off tickets at home. (The paper tickets are similar to digital boarding passes on a piece of paper.)
"There has been some question about the fee. The intention is for the fee to be waived year after year. We've heard our fans," Ludlow said.
"It's a logical move into the digital world. The digital ticketing platform has to start somewhere. Sometimes it feels odd when you print (tickets) at home, but that's it."
There will be a fee, however, if fans want physical "spitter stock" tickets, the generic tickets featuring nothing but the game information. Ludlow said the team would charge $60 for this service for the 2012-13 season if fans want to "touch and feel" their tickets.
The full-colour game tickets that were sent out to season-ticket holders last year, however, no longer exist.
Ludlow said he understands memorabilia collectors may be interested in these ducats -- framers did a brisk business last year displaying them for posterity -- and while there are no plans to print them, that could change, he said.
"We haven't yet investigated what it means for a collector and what it costs. We don't know if there's any demand at all. To the extent the demand is overwhelming, you'd have to react to that. We just don't know," he said.
Travis Daley, co-owner of Joe Daley's Sportscards Ltd., said he framed 30 full sets of season tickets from the 2011-12 Jets season.
"They were quite popular. People want to keep them and preserve them. As a rule, sports fans like to have the piece of paper in their pockets. Some fans are quite unhappy not to have the usual tickets. A lot of them are going to miss that," he said.
The Jets are one of a handful of teams to go the digital-ticket route this season. Edmonton and Calgary are the other Canadians ones, Ludlow said.
"The Winnipeg Jets' mandate is to lead the league in fan-based efficiencies," Ludlow said.
The season cards, which should have arrived in every primary season-ticket holders' mailbox by the end of Tuesday, will be identified with the section, row and seat number associated with each ticket. They will also facilitate team-loyalty programs in the near future, Ludlow said.
Putting a big dent in ticket fraud is one of the driving forces behind the new ticketing system. Ludlow wasn't able to attach a number to what fraudulent tickets might have cost the Jets or their fans last year, but he said it's something the team is watching "very carefully."
Winnipeg Jets fans can expect to see -- and hear -- a few changes at the MTS Centre this year.
The team has installed a high-definition video wall at the main entrance at Portage Avenue and Donald Street and added 66 loudspeakers above the ice surface.
Beer drinkers will be happy to hear the washroom capacity has been increased significantly.
The team's Jersey Off Our Backs promotion, which was so popular after the final game of last season, will be expanded this year. One fan at the end of every game will receive a game-worn jersey, plus every player's jersey will be given away after the final game.
Ticket card offers features
THE Jets season-ticket card is much more than just another piece of plastic in your wallet. Here are a couple of the features:
It doubles as a discount card at Jets Gear stores, giving the holder 15 per cent savings. (The bar code on forwarded tickets will enable the holders to get the same discount.)
It reduces the risk of fraud as tickets to each game can be traced to the recipient even if they are forwarded multiple times.
Primary season-ticket holders can distribute tickets to other people in their group without having to physically hand them over.
If the card is lost, it will be cancelled and a replacement issued, just as if you lost your credit card.
Thanking the patient fans
What NHL teams are doing to thank their fans:
Winnipeg Jets: Opening practice was free to public and included free popcorn, soft drinks and a 25 per cent discount on Jets merchandise. Plan commemorative gift for fans at Saturday's season opener.
Anaheim Ducks: Free practice sessions and a Q&A with coach Bruce Boudreau. The more than 2,500 fans who attended also received free hotdogs and pop.
Boston Bruins: Offering vouchers for three free non-alcoholic concession items in January to returning fans. The team's pro shop and fan zones were also offering merchandise at 25 per cent off during home games in January with season-ticket holders getting 30 per cent off. During the team's first game, fans would have a chance to win game-worn player jerseys, a chance to fly with the Bruins on a team charter and a visit to the team's locker-room. The team opened its training camp for free with free parking and concession items. A Black and Gold game was held on Tuesday with free admission. The Bruins and TD Bank were giving away hundreds of free tickets in each New England state with fans having to follow the team's Twitter site for locations.
Buffalo Sabres: Held a free scrimmage on Monday and opened up training camp during the first week. All Sabres merchandise at the First Niagara Center was 50 per cent off until the first game ends on Sunday.
Calgary Flames: Opened up its training camp to the public and held a Return of the C of Red online contest with prizes including two tickets to the home opener, an autographed team jersey, $200 gift cards, and a grand prize of club seats, press box and media scrum access, post-game meet and greet, pre-game skate, pre-game dinner and more.
Chicago Blackhawks: Haven't yet announced fan initiatives.
Carolina Hurricanes: Opened up all of its practices to the public for free. Had raffle giveaways and entertainment at the first practice and a Q-and-A period with the team's radio broadcaster. All merchandise in the team's store was to be 50 per cent off from Jan. 13 to Jan. 24.
Colorado Avalanche: Held a free open house with arena tours. All the team's practices were free and open to the public from Jan. 13 to 18.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Handed out free T-shirts to the first 1,000 people who attended the first practice. Offered a two-for-one opening-night ticket deal and had Ticketmaster waive all convenience and other processing fees for online ticket purchases until Jan. 21. Fans at the first game will get a free T-shirt, a schedule magnet, and a voucher for a free soft drink, hotdog and popcorn. Also planned are several prize giveaways, including a game-worn jersey. The second game would see fans get a Blue Jackets baseball cap, a schedule poster and they could stay for a post-game team autograph session.
Dallas Stars: Teamed up with 7-Eleven to offer free tickets to kids 12 and younger as long as a full-price ticket is bought.
Detroit Red Wings: Hosted free training sessions including a Red vs. White game on Tuesday As part of the team's "Thanks for sticking with us" initiative, it teamed up with Ticketmaster to waive all fees for ticket purchases for the first 35 hours of sales.
Edmonton Oilers: Put on a free game of outdoor shinny with the entire team.
Florida Panthers: Started a Seventh Man initiative with game tickets starting as low as $7 a game. It also launched a Twitter initiative that would see a fan win a pair of tickets in the lower bowl at the next home game and sit next to the team's president, Michael R. Yormark, for part of the game.
Los Angeles Kings: Hosted a free open practice, which was televised on Fox Sports West.
Minnesota Wild: Offered free intrasquad game with concession voucher, followed by autographed jersey giveaways. Fifty per cent discount on merchandise. Season-ticket holders received 10 per cent interest on the money held by the team for cancelled games. Fans to receive free Wild T-shirt at home opener.
Montreal Canadiens: Offered free admission to several practices and simulated game. Game-day skates (for both teams) before its home opener vs. Maple Leafs also free.
Nashville Predators: Hosted a free open-to-the-public Kickoff Celebration at the Bridgestone Arena featuring an open house, team practice and 50-cent concessions. The team was also offering upper-deck tickets for $10.
New Jersey Devils: Had a win-a-pair-of-season-tickets contest, worth $3,600.
New York Islanders: Held a free Blue and White scrimmage at the Nassau Coliseum, opened a pair of team practices for free. Season-ticket holders could reserve an exclusive on-the-glass location with the chance to high-five players as they went onto the ice.
New York Rangers: Holding a contest for a pair of tickets to its opening-night game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Was also telecasting Rangers Training Camp Live, a two-hour look at the team's practice.
Ottawa Senators: For the first 10 games of the season, the team will have promotions including the home opener with free parking in three sections of Scotiabank Place, children 14 and under would get a free ticket with a purchased adult ticket, popcorn would be $1, and there would be a 50 per cent discount on merchandise. There are also other incentives including half-price tickets for students for the Feb. 5 game and half-price tickets for minor hockey players on Feb. 9.
Philadelphia Flyers: The team planned a weeklong set of events called Flyer Up. They planned a free open practice at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, as well as all team practices at its Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., from Jan. 13 to 18. For the Thursday event, a Flyers broadcaster was going to MC the practice, letting people know what was happening on the ice and helping the players and fans interact with each other. The team was planning to distribute free T-shirts and cheer cards to shoppers along Kings Highway in Haddonfield on Tuesday at noon and at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia on Thursday at noon. A Puck Drop Party was being planned for Friday at a bar with fans wearing orange and black getting drink specials. The team's cheerleaders, the Flyers Ice Girls, were also going to greet fans and toss T-shirts during the party. All fans at the team's season opener were going to get a free T-shirt and a season schedule magnet.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The team hosted for free a Black and Gold game with free parking at the CONSOL Energy Center surface lots. The team was offering half-price merchandise during its first four home games and a voucher for three free concession items. The team's training camp practices were also open for free. Fans at the home opener were to receive a free gold Great Day for Hockey T-shirt. Sixteen other games were to see promotions including Feb. 13, with a free Evgeni Malkin bobblehead. The team also held a weeklong contest on social media and the team's website with prizes including a pair of tickets to every home game, a road trip to see the team play the New York Rangers including airfare, hotel and tickets, autographed jerseys from Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Marc-André Fleury, and four front-row seats at the home opener. The team also opened its training camp for free to the public.
Phoenix Coyotes: The team plans to let fans see for free an intrasquad game as well as other fan-appreciation deals during the season.
St. Louis Blues: The team's training camp practices from Jan. 13 to 18 were free and open to the public and fans could get specials on food and drink and a 20 per cent discount at the True Blue Authentics Team Store.
San Jose Sharks: The team hosted a free opening training-camp practice.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The team hosted a free Fan Fest on Sunday with players signing autographs and providing commentary during a team practice. The team also announced a five-game deal, which fans could buy for as low as $99. The team also has a section where 500 tickets would be on sale for each game for $10 apiece.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The team offered free admission to its training camp at the MasterCard Centre for two hours on Monday.
Vancouver Canucks: The team plans special opening-weekend celebrations featuring tributes, food discounts and prizes including the chance for a fan to win a Canucks road trip on the team charter. During the first three home games of the season, the team is offering a 50 per cent discount on all Canucks Team Store merchandise, while hotdogs, popcorn, nachos and pop cost $1.
Washington Capitals: The team and Ticketmaster are waiving all convenience fees on home-game tickets until Feb. 13. As well, the team held a fan appreciation week online sweepstakes where autographed items were given away every hour from Monday to Friday, from noon to 4 p.m. The team's training camp sessions were all free and open to the public. A Caps Fan Appreciation Special Event will be held at the Verizon Center on Thursday and featured an open practice and free hotdogs, pop, popcorn, pretzels, nachos and ice cream. Some of the players were to be available for a question-and-answer period as well as photo opportunities, a slapshot cage, face painting and autographs from Capitals legends Rod Langway and Peter Bondra. The team's merchandise store was offering 20 per cent discounts during the special event. Season-ticket holders were also being given a chance to win several prizes including: dinner for two at the Acela Club restaurant; a meet-and-greet with a player; a private pre-game penalty box visit and photo; a jersey signed by star Alex Ovechkin; a $250 Verizon Center Team Store shopping spree; and dinner for four at a restaurant with an alumnus.