THE Winnipeg Jets are formulating their plan for season-ticket buyers in the event of missed games, another sign of growing certainty an NHL lockout is inevitable.
The league and the NHL Players' Association are approaching the end of seven years of labour peace that followed the lost season of 2004-05. Their collective bargaining agreement, under which the league grew to realize $3.3 billion in revenue last season, expires Sept. 15.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said a lockout will begin then if no new labour agreement is in place.
Jets season-ticket customers will hear from the team in short order, if they haven't already, as the team tries its best to keep them in the loop.
The team's senior director of corporate communication Scott Brown, said Wednesday he couldn't yet comment on the elements of the Jets' plan but did confirm the club has been working on contingencies in the event the league and players get into a lockout situation as early as next Saturday.
It's expected Bettman won't waste much time after the deadline before cancelling some pre-season games.
If a lockout begins, fans in all 30 markets can expect to hear more specific details from their teams about refunds and/or accounts.
Brown said that's consistent with the Jets' thinking. He also confirmed the team has not begun to sell individual game tickets, so it won't have that potential headache to deal with.
The NHL has been communicating with its teams in recent weeks about how to go about addressing season-ticket accounts. The league has drafted guidelines and templates for letters or emails but has given individual teams latitude to enact policies for their own markets.
Some teams will offer refunds on a monthly basis for games not played. Others will give their customers the option to keep their payments on account as a credit (earning interest).
The league and the Jets confirmed Wednesday there will not be a one-size-fits-all policy for refunds or other ticket makeup strategies.
In Winnipeg, season-ticket customers had until Aug. 15 to pay for their 2012-13 seats. Not all the cash for those 13,000 seats is on hand yet, as the Jets offer a monthly payment plan and have a substantial number of subscribers taking advantage of it.
As far as 2012-13 games in immediate jeopardy, the Jets aren't scheduled for any exhibition action until Sept. 24 in Edmonton. In all, Winnipeg has four pre-season games slated for the MTS Centre before its scheduled Oct. 13 season-opener here against Carolina.
For NHL fans and teams, including the Jets, the ticket issue will be a two-phase inconvenience.
The first phase is about to hit, then the second comes when a new CBA is in place and -- assuming matters won't start on time -- how long a revised regular season might be.
Until the specifics of that are known, there is no way for future payments to be made or balances determined.
In 1994, when the league locked its players out, it was determined that 48 games starting in mid-January was a viable season and it was begun hastily, without any exhibition action.
NOTES: The league has scrubbed next week's annual media invite/tour for star players. It normally invites the highest-profile players from every team to New York for an intense two days with national media outlets.
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