Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rich, famous coming to see Jets

Tickets to game a hot commodity

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THE big names won't just be on the ice Sunday afternoon, they'll also be in the stands.

Well, private boxes most likely.

The long-anticipated home opener for the reborn Winnipeg Jets against the Montreal Canadiens could be the hottest ticket in the city's sporting history and bigwigs from all over Canada are doing their best to get their hands on one.

Some, such as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and MTS Allstream chief executive officer Pierre Blouin, are on the record saying they'll be there. As the Free Press reported last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be in the crowd, too. One insider said tickets are in such high demand, Harper's request for 14, to bring along some of his ministers from across the country, was politely turned down and he was given two.

Charlie Spiring, vice-chairman of National Bank, said he had invited a number of the bank's Montreal-based executives to watch the game from its suite, but they had to cancel after buying HSBC Securities two weeks ago. (They had planned to bring along one of two Montreal Canadiens' greats, Guy Lafleur or Yvon Cournoyer, with them, he said.)

Spiring said anyone who bought a luxury box at the MTS Centre is fielding calls non-stop from people trying to get in the door.

"The calls are ridiculous. Most of the smart people know how impossible it is. People are all scrambling. Most guys are trying to pull weight and get tickets and they're shocked when they can't," he said.

"They're so hot I wouldn't give one to my mom. She was lobbying hard. I'm screwed at Christmas now. I'll be getting coal."

A number of former players will be on hand, too, including Dale Hawerchuk, who will be there to see his protegé from the Barrie Colts, Mark Scheifele, make his NHL debut. Randy Gilhen, Ray Neufeld and Jordy Douglas, who make their homes in Winnipeg, also have tickets.

Douglas, president of the Winnipeg Jets Alumni Association, said former players won't be part of the official program as far as he knows. The game is more of an NHL event than it is a Winnipeg Jets event, he said.

"Holy macaroni, it's not just the hottest ticket in Winnipeg, it's the hottest ticket in the NHL. Everybody wants to be here," he said.

Former Jets captain Keith Tkachuk, his wife, Chantal, and their kids are flying in from St. Louis on Friday. Chantal Tkachuk said she has been following the craziness leading up to the game from afar and she is pumped about being here in person.

"I am so excited for my boys to witness a hockey game where the fans are so loud and passionate. I have tried to explain to them what it was like in the whiteout days where you left with scratchy voices because you had to yell at the people you were with just so they could hear you," she said.

Rick Waugh, a proud Winnipegger who plies his trade on Toronto's Bay Street as the president of Scotiabank, is flying in for the game, as well. His trip is part business, part pleasure as Scotiabank announced on Wednesday it will be the official bank of the Winnipeg Jets.

"I remember watching the Jets with my family when I was growing up in Winnipeg. I'm excited to be coming home this weekend to watch my team," Waugh said. "This partnership with True North Sports (and Scotiabank) is a great fit for us as Canada's hockey bank and it's going to allow us to bring the great community hockey programs we've built to families across the city."

geoff.kirbyson @freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 7, 2011 B1

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