Thousands more free tickets made available for the Winnipeg Whiteout party didn’t translate into thousands of people actually coming out Monday night.
An extra 10,000 free tickets, on top of the original 25,000 tickets issued, brought only 11,000 people to the Whiteout party near Bell MTS Place — the second held under the new ticket system and the lowest number through the Winnipeg Jets’ playoff run. The number was even lower than the crowd on Saturday.
Police said earlier Monday they didn’t come up with the idea to limit the free street parties to those who hold event tickets, but they supported it.
"The choice to ticket, that’s not ours. Ours was to do with control of capacity. How to achieve that is up to the applicant," Winnipeg Police Service Insp. Nick Paulet said on Monday.
WPS spokesmen fielded a barrage of media questions at police headquarters on Monday, after Winnipeg Jets owner True North Sport & Entertainment Ltd. told the Free Press police had mandated tickets for the free outdoor street party Saturday, held prior to and during the third-round NHL playoff game against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Kevin Donnelly, True North senior vice-president of venues and entertainment, said the decision to have the public reserve tickets, free of charge, ahead of Saturday’s Whiteout had come from city police. The previous six street parties, held on Jets home playoff game days, required no ticket for entry, with some drawing roughly 20,000 people.
Monday’s party (Game 2 of the best-of-seven series) marks the second under the new ticket-reservation program.
"There are benefits in knowing how many people come and in alerting the public if you don’t have a ticket, you need to rethink your plans," Donnelly said, in explanation of how the ticket mandate evolved.
The ticket system drew complaints on social media, and Saturday’s turnout on the street outside Bell MTS Place fell well short of capacity when many fans who snapped up the 25,000 free tickets online failed to show up at the event. (The crowd was estimated at 15,000.)
In some cases, fans tried to sell the free tickets on websites such as Kijiji. (Reselling event tickets for more than the original cost is illegal, police reminded the public on Monday.)
Police said they had pushed for a way to better control the crowds at the street parties, but it was True North that came up with the ticket plan.
"How someone controls the (crowd) capacity doesn’t make a difference to us. The fact there is some control does — and that was our ask to the special events committee, that there was some control on the capacity," Paulet said.
The Whiteout street parties fall under the umbrella of the City of Winnipeg’s special events committee, a group that includes the heads of city departments, from Transit to police and fire-paramedic services.
Crowd behaviour is always an issue for police, and as the crowds grew as the Jets advanced through the Stanley Cup playoffs, everyone else could see it, too, Paulet said.
"There’s only so many resources in the city. We have to make sure we can deal with that crowd, the rest of the downtown, and deal with front-line policing," the inspector said.
Keeping a handle on such a large gathering in a public space is the reason a dozen officers stood in a line Saturday at the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street. The simple act of having police in position for a few minutes was enough to discourage fans exiting the event from making any rash decisions, the Free Press was told as Monday’s questions wound up.
"So, we have the injection of alcohol into a crowd of 20,000 people and that tells all of us there’s a potential for problems. That ties into the resource issue, and there has to be some control on capacity," Paulet said.
"This is something True North was aware of from the very beginning, and how they chose to deal with that was entirely up to them. At the end of the day, last week, you saw at Saturday’s game, they implemented a plan to control it and we supported that," he said.
Meanwhile, police issued a press release on Monday afternoon warning that they are currently investigating several incidents where citizens have been scammed while trying to buy seats for Jets playoff games. The incidents involve the purchase of tickets online from popular buy-and-sell sites, and the tickets are later discovered to be undelivered or invalid.
Alexandra believes every story has a life of its own with a heartbeat and body and legs. She’ll probe for a pulse and check out its shape from every which way, until she feels it and sees it. So be patient with her. She can be exasperating.
Updated on Monday, May 14, 2018 at 3:27 PM CDT: Added warning on fake tickets
8:41 PM: Fixes typo
May 15, 2018 at 8:01 AM: Added warning on fake tickets