Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fans get creative in bid to buy tickets

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LAST week, they were just diehard American Hockey League fans. Now, they're the most popular people in the province -- at least until Saturday.

Ever since Truth North Sports and Entertainment announced that Moose faithful would get first crack at NHL season tickets, websites have exploded with offers to take those pre-sale rights off Moose fans' hands. On the online classified site Kijiji, NHL aficionados were pledging anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per seat on Thursday, just for the right to plunk down a deposit for season tickets before packages go on sale to the general public Saturday.

Unfortunately, those deals won't fly with TNSE. "It clearly states... that the Moose season-ticket holder account is non-transferable," said TNSE spokesman Scott Brown.

Though Moose season-ticket holders can buy extra tickets and share them with someone of their choosing, the original Moose fan must be involved in the transaction, Brown said. "We know who all our Moose season-ticket holders are," he added. "If you show up to pretend to be those ticket holders, we're going to cancel the transaction right on the spot... it is very much buyer beware."

But if you can't technically transfer, you can sure team up: Scores of Manitobans took to social media this week to make some brand-new friends with which to split a little five-year, $25,000 commitment. The frenzy helped feed rumours the entire lower bowl of the MTS Centre might be sold out by then -- and that hype is music to fans' ears.

"To me, that tells me that Mr. Chipman's gamble was probably right," said Mike Phelan, a longtime Jets fan who launched a Facebook group to help people find new ticket-sharing friends. "They claimed that market forces threw the team out -- now market forces are bringing it back to its rightful place. We deserve this."

By Thursday afternoon, about 135 people had joined his group, the Winnipeg Jets Season Ticket Buddy Site. Fans were already starting to form ticket-buying groups two months ago -- and since the news was made official, more join every hour.

Many are looking to split a pair of tickets between eight or 10 people; some fans even post from outside Manitoba, hoping to secure access to a handful of games a year.

"It goes beyond finances. Going to 41 games is a big commitment if you have family," said Phelan, who plans to take in six or seven games with his group of season ticket holders.

"I could probably afford season tickets, but my wife would kill me."

-- Melissa Martin

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 3, 2011 A3

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