A foggy outlook for the 2020-21 NHL season has at least given hockey-starved Winnipeg Jets fans a financial reprieve this summer.
Under normal circumstances, season-ticket holders would have already directed partial payments to True North Sports & Entertainment for the upcoming campaign. However, the abnormal prevails during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The club indicated on its website it won’t send out invoices until the NHL’s deep thinkers figure out what the 2020-21 season might look like.
“We will be adjusting timelines and will communicate with you once the details have been finalized,” the Jets said in a sattement.
The prospect of playing in front of empty arenas next season also remains a distinct possibility if the virus remains a threat and a vaccine hasn’t been developed.
It’s a certainty that with a late-summer 24-team playoff format, the next NHL season won’t begin in October. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the range for the beginning of next season could be anywhere between November and January.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a serious financial impact on many Manitoba families. But that won’t be represented in renewals, as season-ticket holders faced a Feb. 21 deadline — prior to the health crisis — to maintain their contracts for another three years.
“The multi-year renewals were completed before the pandemic began in March, and as we’ve done in the past, any unrenewed seats will be offered to our wait list,” said Rob Wozny, True North’s vice-president of communications and content.
“However, with the pause in the 2019-20 season, and no indication to date about what a 2020-21 season will look like, it’s premature, at this point, to speculate on if or when we’ll explore our options until we have direction from the NHL.”
Winnipeg had already offered season-ticket holders rebate or refund options when the rest of the 2019-20 regular season was officially scrapped in May.
The Jets had 11 games left on their schedule, four of which were to be played at Bell MTS Place.
The Jets have maintained a season-ticket base of 13,000 since its original drive in June 2011. Wozny had indicated last October the team’s wait list was still 4,000 names long, just half of the original 8,000.
The rink on the old Eaton’s site seats about 15,200 for hockey. The Jets’ streak of packing the house for more than 300 straight home games since relocating from Atlanta nine years ago was snapped in October.
Often, upwards of a thousand tickets for games were available on the resale market, depending on the opponent. And tickets were still available for many games right up until first puck drop.
Wozny was asked this week if True North is planning for other ways to alleviate some of the financial burden on season-ticket holders for the 2020-21 season.
“We will not be sending invoices for the 2020-21 NHL season until a plan for the 2020-21 season has been determined. When the timing has been determined to move forward, we will be adjusting timelines and will communicate with seatholders once the details have been finalized,” Wozny said.
Some fans had already shelled out for their first installment to guarantee their vantage points at the downtown arena. Much like their Canadian brethren, the Jets have offered refunds but have also offered incentives to ticket holders to allow the Central Division club to keep the money.
The team has waived a two per cent administrative fee it usually adds to each of the monthly installments payments until a plan for the 2020-21 season has been determined.
Assistant sports editor
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