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The Whiteout is a playoff tradition the Phoenix Coyotes carried over from the franchise's days in Winnipeg. This photo was taken in 2002 against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference playoffs and provides evidence of (a) Coyotes fans actually filling some seats under the right conditions and (b) the beleaguered team's last playoff appearance.

It's a symbol of hockey fan solidarity behind their local team, and it's being resurrected for one of the most symbolically important nights in the history of the franchise: Saturday, Oct. 10, which is opening night at Jobing.com Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

After their preseason attendance was placed under the media microscope, it's clear the gate for this game is going to be headline news around the hockey world. So the Coyotes had decided to get aggressive with their opening night pricing:

As in offering every ticket downstairs for $25, and offering every ticket upstairs for $15 for one night only

It's a bold attempt to show media, fans and perhaps themselves that the bankrupt franchise teetering on the brink of relocation truly does have dedicated local fans -- especially now that Jim Balsillie has conceded that Hamilton is out of the picture for this season.

The Coyotes aren't pretending that this is anything other than a blatant attempt at getting an opening night sellout for public relations' sake. "That's exactly it," said Sergey Kocharov, director of media relations for the Coyotes. "We're trying to fill up the building for opening night."

So what about the few, the proud, the Phoenix Coyotes season-ticket holders who are already paying a bit more than $25 for their seats to the game? Glad you asked.

First, the official press release from Phoenix on the opening night promotion:

GLENDALE, Ariz. --- Phoenix Coyotes President and Chief Operating Officer Douglas Moss announced today that the Coyotes will hold a "Welcome Back WhiteOut" during the team's Home Opener versus the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, Oct. 10 at Jobing.com Arena to celebrate the beginning of the 2009-10 season.

"We're looking forward to holding the first-ever WhiteOut at Jobing.com Arena at this year's Home Opener," said Moss. "We received tremendous support from our fans during the summer, so this a way for us to thank them while also celebrating the start of a new hockey season."

The Coyotes are extending a special ticket offer to the public for the Oct. 10 game. All lower bowl seats are available for just $25 while all upper level seats are on sale for only $15. The tickets go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. and  are only available online at www.phoenixcoyotes.com. The NHL has also offered a 15% discount on merchandise at www.shop.nhl.com that will be included with every ticket order through Sept. 30.

All fans in attendance at the game will receive a "Welcome Back WhiteOut" t-shirt and white pom-poms, courtesy of Jobing.com. The game begins at 6 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets to an upcoming Phoenix Coyotes game call 480-563-PUCK (7825).

About those season ticket holders, however many remain. Kocharov told us they'll be compensated by a "one-for-one" free ticket deal. "If they have four tickets for the opening night, they're getting four additional complimentary tickets in the best seats available," he said.

No rebates, no refunds, no free tickets for games later in the year. Free tickets for opening night, according to the team.

It's not the first or the last time season-ticket holders have been screwed by deep discounts at the gate; but for a team celebrating the "tremendous support" from its die-hard fans in the summer, shouldn't some of the most die-hard among them get something more than free tickets to a game that's already seen its premium ticket prices drop to the level of a Blu-Ray disc at Target?

One hopes the Coyotes carry over this aggressive pricing into the season, as they desperately court fans back to the arena after a public-relations disaster of a summer. They know attendance is going to be scrutinized beyond opening night; and this decision will, no doubt, be criticized in the Canadian media as a transparent, flimsy stunt even if the arena's full.

Give Phoenix credit for laying on the line: If they fall short of a full house at these prices, it's another heaping spoonful or embarrassment ladled on top of this moribund team. They've now set the bar at sellout or bust. It's quite high, considering the level of apathy in the market right now.

But if they do sell out the game with an arena covered in white shirts on local hockey fans, it's going to be a brief moment of positive symbolism for a franchise whose image as been assassinated in the courtroom and the court of public opinion for the last five months. At least until Home Game 2.

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