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Ticket sale surge brings Memorial Cup games closer to sellouts

One game is sold out, but there are still good seats available for the MasterCard Memorial Cup, two days before the tournament starts at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga.

Fears that there would be acres of empty seats for junior hockey's biggest event, however, appear to be overblown, as ticket buyers from other markets have helped close the gap.

"All went according to plan," said Eugene Melnyk, owner of the host Mississauga St. Michael's Majors. "Because of the nature of the tourney, many people don't buy tickets from out of town until the last moment in fear that their team doesn't qualify. The moment a team qualifies, the phone rings off the hook."

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Those ticket buys from fans of the tournament's two late entries - the Saint John Sea Dogs and Kootenay Ice - along with those of the nearby Owen Sound Attack mean that there are now 300 tickets or less available for each of the seven games that haven't been sold out.

Even with that bump, it was still possible Tuesday night to purchase as many as a dozen seats together for the May 29 final, a game that was grouped into a discounted three pack with two round-robin games last week to increase sales.

Whatever the final numbers, they're sure to be better than what the Majors' playoff games were drawing. Mississauga had an announced crowd of just 1,363 for its playoff opener in late March and less than 2,700 - half the Hershey Centre capacity - for some games in the Ontario Hockey League final.

The Memorial Cup proved more of a success thanks to Melnyk's extensive sales team, which included staffers from the Ottawa Senators, which he also owns, getting the job done in spite of what are high ticket prices for junior hockey.

Individual game tickets range from $72 for early round-robin games to $130 for the final. Packages to the full event sold for more than $600.

"It's a real challenge in this marketplace," Canadian Hockey League president David Branch said of the Greater Toronto Area's long-running struggles at the gate.

"I knew that ticketing, going into the event, would be the biggest single challenge and we were given assurances by the Majors they would in fact sell the event out. And we're pleased to see that appears it'll be the case."

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Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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