Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

NHL ticket brokers 'offside'

Fans jeer as scalpers set to cash in on hockey craze

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One of the lucky holders of four $39-a-game upper deck NHL season tickets in Winnipeg is a professional ticket broker in Richmond, Va., who's asking $120,000 U.S. for his seats.

And that broker expects that there are more brokers -- scalpers? -- out there in the U.S. holding seats in the MTS Centre.

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Fans are hitting eBay, Craigslist, and Kijiji, trolling for tickets they couldn't buy online.

The broker wouldn't give his name, but said his company, ajtickets2002, operates out of Richmond, with offices in New Jersey and New York. He's offering on eBay to transfer his four seats to the winning bidder as soon as it's legally possible.

His company bought the tickets during Saturday's general sale.

"They allowed us to log on. I had one of my employees get them," said the broker.

The fact scalpers have bought up tickets is a bitter pill to swallow for diehard fans.

"BOO," was how 10-year-old Tanner MacDonald put it Sunday night.

His father, Kevin MacDonald, and his fiancée were online right at noon Saturday and were still trying for tickets when reports announced they had sold out in 17 minutes flat.

"I can't put into words how frustrating that is," Kevin MacDonald said. "They don't even care about the Jets. We're not going to buy scalper tickets, no way."

His fiancée, Gillian Rutley, said that True North would have been aware of the risk of scalpers picking up tickets meant for fans, and there should have been safeguards against it.

Back in the States, the Richmond scalper said he's turned down one legitimate offer of $12,000 U.S. The rest of the emailed responses received by Sunday night were from people angry at him for taking tickets away from local fans.

He's committed to paying True North $15,000 over three years, said the broker, who'll consider an offer less than $120,000.

"That's just a crazy number -- I'm not expecting anything like that," he said. "I don't even know what they're worth. If I don't sell these as season, I'll sell them as individual games."

He's talked to another broker who hesitated to put down a deposit and commit for years to a market he didn't know, but there are "massive operations" in the U.S. that he expects are now Winnipeg season ticket holders.

The same seller was asking $500 for a pair of tickets to Sunday's baseball game between the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves, and he picked up $295 for a single seat to the opener of the Dallas-Miami NBA final last week.

On the more reasonable front, another eBay ad offered two $39 tickets for eight games at $640. Face value -- but to games of the season ticket holder's choice.

That unidentified seller is also based somewhere in the U.S., and appears to do business selling tickets to upcoming concerts in major venues in Pittsburgh, Boston and San Jose.

The frenzy over tickets alarmed Winnipeg police, who issued strongly-worded warnings Sunday.

Thousands of distraught souls who didn't get to buy NHL tickets for the 2011-2012 season in Winnipeg should be careful shopping for tickets sold privately online, police warn.

"It's a buyer-beware situation," said Winnipeg Police Service spokeswoman Const. Natalie Aitken.

She said the police have been made aware of online scalpers and scores of desperate shoppers.

Kijiji and Craigslist are full of requests from people trying to buy tickets -- any tickets -- that anyone has to sell. Not only that, one lucky ticket holder posted an ad to trade or swap his tickets.

And one seller on Craigslist is offering three season tickets for the upcoming season for $14,000. It is not clear if the price includes transferring ownership or just the tickets for one season.

The seller said there's a frenzied bidding war going on right now with fans on the net driving up prices in bids against each other.

By mid-afternoon Sunday, his Craigslist posting was a line in boldface capital letters that read: 3 WINNIPEG JETS NHL SEASON TICKETS 2011-2012 -- $14,000 (P6 SECTION GREEN)

In a series of email exchanges, he described his day Sunday:

"Tons of offers but no commitment yet have like 50 emails for this already," the seller said.

A little while later, he emailed another update, saying the day was more than busy, it was nuts: "Ya crazy. Put this into perspective...

"Offer started at 8K...this a.m. 12K."

Then it went to $14,000 and the email updates from the seller stopped.

"Diehard fans are out of luck," said Aitken. People need to be careful or they'll be out of money, too.

On Saturday, True North hit its goal of selling 13,000 season tickets.

Emotions are running high for some hockey fans who didn't get season tickets, said Aitken.

The only solace she can offer is the Winnipeg team's pledge to sell individual game tickets.

"True North is going to make efforts to make some tickets available," she said.

In the meantime, watch out for scalpers on the Internet offering tickets to NHL games in Winnipeg, she said.


-- with files from Carol Sanders

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 6, 2011 A3

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