Puck Daddy - NHL

The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning open their respective preseason schedules tonight at the MTS Centre for an exhibition game in Winnipeg. (Ed. Note: Tampa opened on Tues.)

There were 13,700 tickets sold as of this afternoon ... but the organizers were in a full-on panic about how many fans would actually be there for faceoff. Why? From CBC Sports:

The puck drops at 7 p.m., (CT) not 7:30 p.m. as stated on game tickets and all of the promotional material.

A mistake was made somewhere along the line, said Scott Brown, director of communications and hockey operations for True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the MTS Centre.

D'oh. We spoke with Brown this evening about whether or not True North would offer a refund to fans who went by the ticket time. (Tickets were going as high as $120 CDN on Ticketmaster.)

Brown said "it's something we definitely have to have a conversation about," but that True North was focused on getting the word out about the time change rather than establishing a formal refund policy. Our impression: They want to see how many fans actually show up late before going down that road.

It's the seventh NHL preseason game held in Winnipeg since 1997 and, we imagine, the first featuring a professional hockey player with a lake named after him in the province. 

As usual, the NHL's presence in Winnipeg has encourage pom-pom waving from local media about getting another team 14 years after the Jets left for Phoenix. This time, the big story centered on a study performed by the colorful website www.myNHLincludeswinnipeg.com that determined Winnipeg and Quebec City have "proved to be substantially above average when it came to steady and predictable fan draws." From the Winnipeg Free Press:

The study examined attendance numbers from 1979 to 1995, tossing out the 1995-96 season when the Jets were in a known lame-duck position. It also assembled 1996-2010 data to have the most up-to-date comparisons, then measured teams' attendance numbers in relation to on-ice performance to come up with a fans-per-point index.

"Only two of 30 current teams (Detroit and San Jose) are steadier than Winnipeg's past history illustrates," the study says. "Quebec City is ranked 10th similarly. ... This suggests that in good times or not, the attendance in both cities wavers much less.... Knowing that your biggest revenue stream is stable is critical to business success and market success."

In other Winnipeg news, a young black bear got stuck in a choo-choo train.

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