The NHL is heading back to Winnipeg.
At a press conference at the MTS Centre on Tuesday, True North Sports and Entertainment announced their purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers, and their intention to relocate that franchise to the 15,015-seat arena in downtown Winnipeg.
That move is pending approval from the NHL's Board of Governors, but given the presence of Commissioner Gary Bettman at the press conference today and the nice shiny NHL logo on the back drop in the interview room, that's only a formality. The Board of Governors meets on June 21.
The big reason for making this announcement before the official approval is to sell season tickets. Bettman urged that the best way to send the message to the board that Winnipeg can support NHL hockey is to sell 13,000 season tickets, and True North announced their "Drive to 13,000" ticket campaign at driveto13.com.
Tickets go on sale for current Manitoba Moose season ticket holders on Wednesday, June 1 at 1 p.m. local time. For the general public, season tickets go on sale on Saturday, June 4 at 12 p.m. local time. Season ticket prices are cheap compared to many other cities and comparable with prices in Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. They're organized in seven tiers.
The most expensive tickets come in at $5,805, while the cheapest tickets come in at $1,755. Each ticket comes with a mandatory three to five-year term, while True North says they will guarantee that ticket prices won't rise more than 3 percent over the course of that term.
Bettman made sure to say that he believes Winnipeg can support NHL hockey, but that if the arena isn't full every single night, it might not work out. The expectation is certainly that the 13,000-seat goal will be met. Winnipeg is hockey mad, and the Moose had an average of 8,000 fans per game in the AHL. Getting that to capacity for the NHL product shouldn't be much of a problem.
So, that's the next step. The ticket drive begins Wednesday and Saturday, and Board approval is pending in late June. It's all just formality though, really. Atlanta Spirit Group no longer owns the Atlanta Thrashers, and they're moving north to Winnipeg.