Winnipeg sells 13,000 season tickets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Fans in Winnipeg are showing just how excited they are to have NHL hockey back, helping the club hit its goal of 13,000 season tickets sold in a matter of minutes.

In announcing its purchase and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers this week, True North Sports and Entertainment said it hoped to sell 13,000 season tickets before the NHL Board of Governors votes to approve the transaction on June 21.

The tickets sold out Saturday in just 17 minutes, but the company said the online queue was full in two minutes. The remaining 15 minutes were required to process the sales.

"While I had no doubt the 'Drive to 13,000' would reach its destination, the remarkable speed at which it got there certifies the fans' hunger for NHL hockey and their commitment to True North's initiatives," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

For the previous three days, only the 2,000 or so fans who had season tickets to the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose could buy seats for the NHL team. As of Friday, those fans bought more than 7,100 season tickets.

All sales were conducted online.

"We would like to take a special moment to thank all of our fans in Winnipeg and Canada for their support over the past week, in particular, the overwhelming response of our fans which has resulted in a successful 'Drive to 13,000' campaign," True North's president and CEO, Jim Ludlow, said in a statement.

The ticket packages available were for three, four and five seasons. Ludlow said the ticket campaign was a key ingredient to ensuring the viability to NHL hockey in Manitoba. The unnamed club was bought by True North from owners in Atlanta earlier this week.

With all 13,000 season tickets sold, there will be just over 2,000 tickets remaining for each home game. MTS Centre is the NHL's smallest arena, holding just over 15,000 people.

But unlike the old Winnipeg Arena, where the Winnipeg Jets used to play before they for left Phoenix in 1996, MTS Centre has corporate suites, ranging in price from $105,000 to $197,000 a season.

True North also started an official membership-only-based waiting list for any season tickets that become available, which will require a fee to join. That waiting list filled its 8,000 spots in a few hours on Saturday.

"We look forward to seeing everyone this fall at MTS Centre for opening night of regular-season NHL hockey in Winnipeg."

Ludlow didn't provide any hints about what the new team will be called nor exactly when the name will be announced, but he said it won't be long.

Many fans would like to see the return of the Jets name.

Scott Brown, a spokesman for True North, said the company will try to make it up to fans who couldn't purchase season tickets.

"Hopefully we'll be able to satisfy those people through some events that we'll hold and notifications that we'll have for them in terms of when tickets that become available, in terms of individual games and season tickets," he said.