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Winnipeg hockey supporters rally at The Forks in Winnipeg, Tuesday May 31, 2011 after the announcement that an NHL team will be returning to the city after 15 years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ David Lipnowski (DAVID LIPNOWSKI/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Winnipeg hockey supporters rally at The Forks in Winnipeg, Tuesday May 31, 2011 after the announcement that an NHL team will be returning to the city after 15 years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ David Lipnowski (DAVID LIPNOWSKI/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Winnipeg hockey fans buy up 13,000 season seats Add to ...

Winnipeg hockey fans met the new NHL team's goal of selling 13,000 seats in resounding fashion and almost record time, getting to the magic number on Saturday morning, only hours after the sale was officially broadened to include would-be ticket buyers who were not part of the Manitoba Moose season-ticket base.

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The success of the campaign mirrors one that followed Calgary's entry to the NHL in the 1980-81 season.

On both occasions, failed NHL teams in Atlanta were moved to hockey hotbeds north of the border - and both took up residences in arenas that were relatively undersized compared to the rest of the league.

In Calgary, the Flames were scheduled to play three years in the Stampede Corral, which sat 6,492 people for games and accommodated 700 others in a standing-room circle around the seating bowl.

On the day he completed the purchase of the franchise, owner Nelson Skalbania casually mentioned that the season-ticket campaign would begin the next week - and because of the limited number of seats, they would cost $21 apiece, which would make them the highest in the NHL.

The Flames promised that would be rolled back as soon as the Olympic Saddledome was completed.

Then, in what was just an offhanded comment, Skalbania said that if anyone wanted to drop off a ticket application over the weekend, they could feel free to do so.

By the time the offices opened, there was a mountain of mail awaiting to be sorted. The season-ticket campaign began and ended that day - and for years, the Flames boasted a lengthy waiting list that kept demand for their tickets throughout the first dozen or more years of the operation.

Not surprising, Winnipeg owners took a cue from the example Calgary set 31 years ago and immediately started an official "membership only" based waiting list for tickets. According to a press release from True North Sports and Entertaining, this waiting list will feature several key benefits including:

• Priority access to purchase Stanley Cup playoff ticket packages in advance of the general public, subject to availability.

• Invitation to a select Ticket Holder event during the 2011-12 hockey season.

• 15% discount at the Team Store

• Email notification when tickets are made available through Ticketmaster for sold-out games.

Fans can place their names on the official waiting list by visiting www.driveto13.com.

Here's the catch: To get on the waiting list, you will need to make:

• A one-time non-refundable deposit of $50 per seat (maximum of four seats) that will not be applied against any future purchase.

• At the beginning of season two, a $100 annual membership fee will be due each season in order to retain membership on the waiting list. All membership fees collected and accumulated annually will be applied to the eventual ticket package as long as the membership is retained. Membership fees are otherwise non-refundable.

•Members will receive priority seat numbers (based on the number of seats they choose) indicating their priority position. Each season, renewed members will receive an updated number as there will be accounts that will have the opportunity to purchase ticket packages and others that do not renew their waiting list membership.

•Position on the waiting list is non-transferable, other than within immediate family.

Welcome to the NHL circa 2011 Winnipeg fans. Everything old is new again.

Follow on Twitter: @eduhatschek

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