Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

True North staff can't keep up with calls, emails from anxious fans

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Bigger than Elton John. Hotter than U2. And certainly tougher to score than Disney on Ice.

Just two days into True North Sports & Entertainment's Drive to 13,000season-ticket campaign and the reaction from hockey fans in this province has been both swift and panicky. Swift, as evidenced by the 4,170 commitments from Manitoba Moose season-ticket holders and from corporate advertising partners through Day 2 of the exclusive pre-sale.

And panicky as other fans -- non-Moose fans -- cross their collective fingers and hope there are seats remaining when the sale of packages to the general public opens Saturday at noon.

But fear not, insists True North president and CEO Jim Ludlow. If every Moose season-ticket holder purchased their maximum four NHL season tickets as allowed in the pre-sale, about 4,000 tickets would remain at Saturday's opening to the general public. But Ludlow believes that number will be more like 6,000 to 7,000.

"It's not 2,000, but it's a theoretical question. There will be inventory left, for sure," Ludlow said Thursday. "I compare it to the concert world. There are only so many seats for Elton John and there are only so many seats for NHL hockey. And when Elton John goes on sale and you want to get to the show, you're usually on your computer at noon."

Tickets can only be ordered online at www.driveto13.com and fans are being asked to put down a full-season deposit of $500 to $1,000 depending on which of the seven price points they select and for commitments of three, four and five years. Ludlow suggested hockey fans get familiar with the website and the various ticket/price options in advance and be ready to sign up the second the online window opens.

Essentially, the process is similar to grabbing tickets for a popular concert.

"You get a sense of how well a concert is going to do based on the buzz in the city," said Ludlow. "I have never experienced anything like this in terms of the buzz in the city -- and we sold out lots of concerts before. I cannot keep up and the rest of our staff can't keep up with the emails and phone calls. It's wild. All I can say is, don't wait until Sunday."

'Kind of like Christmas morning'

Rod McRae and his pals aren't waiting until Sunday. In fact, he and three of his co-workers are planning to make the financial commitment for a pair of season tickets and they even have a strategy for Saturday's opening face-off.

"At noon on Saturday, we'll be raring to go," said McRae, who is also a Winnipeg Blue Bomber season-ticket holder.

"Some of the guys are already talking about having a draft for which games we would go to, but we said, 'Whoa, hang on here... we've got to get the tickets first on Saturday.' Everyone is so gung-ho about this nobody really knows what they are going to get on Saturday. It's kind of like Christmas morning.

"I have some experience doing this for concerts and stuff, but we'll have two of us on the computer and on the phone together and we'll see what we can get in the various (price) categories. Whatever happens, happens.

"My $2,000 for my share of the games... if we don't get tickets, I could fly down to Phoenix a few times a year and see a game for that. I've taken my kids to games there before and never paid more than $15."

Ludlow said interest in the 56 corporate suites available in prices ranging from $105,000 to $197,000 has been positive but True North will not be releasing updates on their sale.

Worth noting: With the MTS Centre's capacity at 15,000, there will be fewer than 1,000 single-game tickets available as -- according to True North director of hockey operations Scott Brown -- a 'few hundred' seats need to be held for NHL commitments such as players' families, visiting players availability and for league executives.

If those tickets are unclaimed, they will be added to the walk-up inventory.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

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

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