"This isn't going to work very well unless this building is sold out every night." - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during the Winnipeg/Atlanta Thrashers sale announcement.
You could read that as a threat or a way to inspire Winnipeg fans who really didn't need any inspiration to purchase season tickets to see NHL hockey for the first time in 15 years, but True North Sports and Entertainment's "Drive to 13" ticket campaign reached its goal 17 minutes into the general public sale today.
True North wanted to reach the 13,000 season tickets sold mark as a way to show the NHL's Board of Governors, who will vote on the sale and team relocation on June 21, that they are serious about supporting a team again.
A pre-sale for current Manitoba Moose season ticket holders and corporate sponsors began on Wednesday and through today had sold 7,158 tickets. By this morning, the most expensive seats were sold out. The general public sale began at noon local time today and 5,842 were sold by 12:17 p.m. CST.
From True North:
"We would like to take a special moment to thank all of our fans in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 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," said Jim Ludlow, President & CEO, True North Sports & Entertainment. "The success of the campaign is a key ingredient to ensuring the sustainability and long-term viability of NHL hockey in this province. We look forward to seeing everyone this Fall at MTS Centre for opening night of regular season NHL hockey in Winnipeg."
And a statement from Commissioner Bettman:
"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."
With demand still high, it was announced that fans who missed out can get on a membership only waiting list with benefits such as first dibs on purchasing playoff tickets, team store discount and an invite to a Select-a-Seat event during the 2011-12 season.
Depending on the section, each season ticket came with either a three, four or five year commitment. Hitting the 13,000 tickets sold mark means that approximately 2,000 tickets remain for the general public and for luxury boxes.