December 7, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
A judge has settled the score between two family members fighting over custody of Winnipeg Jets tickets.
Darlene Gibb, 70, won a lawsuit against her brother-in-law Wednesday, allowing her to gain ownership of a pair of tickets she claims were rightfully hers only to be yanked away after a handshake-deal fell apart.
Queen’s Bench Justice Morris Kaufman said he preferred the story told by Gibb over the one spun by John Longstaff, a 73-year-old Air Force veteran who has attended professional hockey games in Winnipeg since 1973. He ruled Longstaff violated a "legal arrangement" and must now turn over ownership of the tickets to Gibb.
Longstaff was the registered owner of two P2 seats at the MTS Centre, seats 3 and 4 in row 12, section 117, which he purchased in advance of the public in the summer of 2011 thanks to his status as a Manitoba Moose ticket-holder.
Kaufman ruled he will still be allowed to pay for up to 12 games per season. Kaufman also warned Gibb to ensure the ticket draft is fair so that Longstaff "doesn’t get 12 games against the bottom three teams. Although hopefully those don’t include the Jets."
Lawyers said they would work together to ensure a fair selection process. Kaufman said they could return to court if there are lingering disputes over games.
While testifying this week, Longstaff admitted he agreed to transfer ownership of his tickets to Gibb but says it would only be after his death. Gibb claims Longstaff promised to do it after the first season, when True North allowed for such transfers.
For the first season, Gibb took 29 regular-season tickets while Longstaff took 12. Longstaff paid True North Sports & Entertainment directly for his tickets, but Gibb and her son had the financing put in their name and also paid the $2,000 mandatory deposit, in addition to their 29 games, court was told.
Gibb claimed Longstaff backed out of the deal because he wasn't happy with the games he received during their initial ticket draft.
"He told me he didn't like the way things had gone and didn't want to transfer the tickets over. He said he didn't get to some games he wanted to, especially the Anaheim game," she said.
Longstaff didn’t deny being sour about missing out on Teemu Selanne's return to Winnipeg with the Anaheim team. But Longstaff said he always intended to keep his tickets while he's alive, with the idea of sharing them with many other friends who are hockey fans that he'd taken to games during the past 40 years.
He claimed Gibb was well aware of this and is now trying to fool the court.
"I told her my friends were going to get tickets from me because they've been going for years," said Longstaff. "I had no intention of giving up my hockey tickets. Never have. In winter time, that's what I do: go to hockey games and have coffee with friends."
Longstaff claims Gibb's son, Ian, went to his house and began threatening him after the first season ended and Longstaff informed them he would only give them about a dozen tickets for season two. "He was saying 'effin this, effin that.' He was really riled up. I thought he was going to attack me."
Darlene Gibb tells a different story, saying Longstaff threatened her. "I said 'You reneged on the deal, so we'll have to get a lawyer involved.' He said 'Then I'll call the police and report you for a home invasion,' " she told court.
A lawyer for True North has been observing the trial this week, and a season-ticket representative testified about the team's policies. He told court about 700 people transferred ownership of tickets after season one, and this is believed to be the only case that didn't go smoothly and ended up in court.
The high price of Jets games has prompted many people to form partnerships to share a pair of season tickets, and experts warned from the start these handshake-only pacts could result in legal problems.
Gibb told court the entire dispute could have been avoided if Longstaff had agreed to purchase four season tickets, not two, and give two of them to her as she originally requested. But she claims Longstaff didn't want two tickets of his own because of his age, poor health and the high cost.
Gibb’s lawyer, Jamie Kagan, argued that alone is a sign his client is telling the truth and Longstaff changed the rules along the way.
Gibb said the ordeal has fractured their family. She recalled taking a Winnipeg Jets cake over to Longstaff's home on the day they got the tickets. "This was quite exciting, a big deal to get these tickets," she said.