Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/1/2016 (2112 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
So, you’re one of the declining number of people in this town who still think the Winnipeg Jets will make the playoffs this season and you’d really like to see the critical Central Division matchup — with huge playoff implications — against the Nashville Predators Thursday at the MTS Centre?
No problem — there were 930 tickets to the game for sale as of 1 p.m. on Monday.
Yeah, you’re saying, but I need 16 tickets in a single row because my 15 sisters are all huge hockey fans too. No problem — how does section 328, row 11, seats 1-16 grab you?
Yeah, you’re saying, but if me and my 15 sisters go, then my wife and her 15 brothers are going to insist on going, too. Again, no problem — there was another row of 16 unsold seats in the 300 level on the opposite side of the building.
So what’s the point of this little exercise in the hockey whims of one fictional — and extremely weird — Winnipeg family?
It’s this: A ticket to a Winnipeg Jets game that has always been regarded as one of the toughest tickets to get in the entire National Hockey League is in reality readily available most gamedays and — like this week’s Nashville game — sometimes in surprisingly large numbers.
Hundreds of seats available for upcoming games
As of 1 p.m. Monday afternoon, there were precisely 376 unsold tickets for the Nashville game — 252 in the 300 level, 64 in the 200 level, 48 in the 100 level and even three blocks of four seats apiece in the sexy new loge level.
How do I know this? Because I went on Ticketmaster’s site and, using their seating chart of the MTS Centre for Thursday’s game, counted every single blue dot, each one representing an unsold ticket.
(Go into journalism, they said. It will be glamorous, they said.)
And on top of all those unsold tickets, there were an additional 554 tickets for sale to the Nashville game on the Jets Seat Exchange, where season ticket holders re-sell the tickets they don’t want to use.
That’s close to a 1,000 tickets for sale this week to a crucial game against a division rival that the Jets are trying to catch for the second and final wild card spot.
Fluke? Not at all: On Monday, there were also 197 unsold tickets — and another 416 for sale on Seat Exchange — to Tuesday's game at the MTS Centre against the San Jose Sharks.
And it’s the same story — in varying numbers — for the rest of this season’s supposedly sold out Jets home dates in the smallest arena in the league.
Bloom off the rose?
So what happened? Is the bloom coming off the Jets rose? Has this town grown frustrated with an underachieving team that appears to have taken a depressing step backward this season after having taken such a promising step forward in reaching the playoffs last season?
And, more importantly, if you can always — or at least almost always — get tickets to a single Jets game these days, what is the continuing motivation for season ticket holders to ante up thousands of dollars every year to buy an entire season?
Interesting questions. And the Jets say it’s partly their responsibility that we’re asking them Tuesday.
"It’s always been a misconception in this community that you can’t buy a ticket to our games," True North spokesman Scott Brown told me Tuesday. "And, in the last year, we’ve recognized that we have to make more of an effort to let people know that."
Brown says you have "always, always, always been able to buy a ticket for a Jets game at some point during the day on game day, but the majority of those would be singles and obstructed seats."
That’s true. But Brown also had to concede that it is equally true that all those unsold Nashville tickets this week — including, again, entire rows — aren’t simply singles and obstructed.
"The Nashville game we do need to sell a few more tix," he said.
Say what? Since when do the Jets need to sell tickets?
"We’re not alarmed by any of these numbers, nor are we in a panic," said Brown. "But at the same time, we are making more of an effort this year than in previous years to let people know tickets are available.
"We’re sending out more notifications because we admit there needs to be a more overt effort on our part to let people know they can get tickets on a game day."
Sellout is 99% sold
Officially, the Jets have sold out all 18 home dates this season — capacity with the loge expansion this season is 15,294 — and they expect to make it 19 for 19 tonight night against San Jose.
But unofficially, Brown says there have been handfuls of tickets going unsold this season, even as the team has continued to claim its perfect sellout streak has remained intact.
So how is a building that isn’t sold out still considered a sellout? "If we get over 99 per cent sold, we — as any other building in all of sports — just list attendance as a sell out," Brown explained.
(Hmmmm. So if this column only has a couple mistakes — which would be a welcome improvement — it’s still perfect? Sign me up for that deal.)
Look, the money from a few hundred unsold seats here or there isn’t going to buy the cigar Jacob Trouba is going to smoke when he signs a $50 million-plus contract later this year.
And in the grand scheme of things, owner Mark Chipman is a lot more concerned right now about the cratering Canadian dollar than he is about a few empty seats behind a camera position.
But you also have to wonder if this is the beginnings of a hairline crack in this team’s Teflon.
Because that crack might get a lot bigger if the Jets aren’t playing meaningful regular season games in the months to come and frustrated season ticket holders begin to question why they’re paying big bucks for games they don’t want to see, when they could just buy the games they do.
Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.