By Jon Waldman | Contributing Writer
Hockey fans and collectors in Winnipeg awoke earlier this week to some startling mail – their beloved souvenir tickets were a thing of the past.
Instead of issuing season ticket holders the traditional, colorful ducats, they received pass cards, similar to those you would get from Tim Hortons or McDonald’s, that identified the section, row and seat number of the ticket holder.
The changeover, in part, is being done to enhance the digital capabilities for the Jets. As President and CEO Jim Ludlow told local media, there will be special loyalty reward programs for season ticket holders that will be operated through these passes.
Additionally, the system will guarantee authenticity of tickets purchased secondhand through the Jets’ “Seat Exchange” system.
“It provides a safe, reliable and legitimate way to resell Jets game tickets,” Ludlow said during a press conference. “We encourage all of our fans to purchase tickets to this season’s sold-out games directly from the Seat Exchange to ensure they are getting guaranteed authentic tickets. If you buy a ticket through somewhere other than the Exchange, you have no way of knowing whether the ticket is counterfeit or invalidated, and that has been a challenge in the past.”
The Jets are one of a handful of NHL teams who are taking part in the changeover this year. Susan Cohig, NHL Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing, indicates that other teams include the Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets. She also denotes that teams in the NBA have been adopting the ticketing format.
The changeover took fans by surprise and they flocked to local media websites, voicing their displeasure loudly, in part because of the nature of preserving the artful pieces as part of their collections, either as memorabilia enthusiasts or simply as fans.
“I know I have Sporting and Concert tickets saved from when I was a kid,” Daren Jorgenson posted on the Winnipeg Free Press’s website, “but I can not see my kids wanting to save a piece of paper that has been folded up in their pocket for 5 hours – nothing special looking about that!”
Decorative tickets for season ticket holders have been used throughout the NHL for decades. The pieces often feature an active or past team member, the home team and visitor’s logos or other art tied to the club.
Ludlow commented that there will be an evaluation of the program, denoting that the ticket booklets that house the decorative pieces are produced in a separate process from the gameday ticket “spitters”.
“At the end of it, we will listen to our fans – to the extent that there are a significant number of fans that at the end of the day would choose to say, ‘I want commemorative tickets from a particular season,’” Ludlow said.
Cohig, herself a sports and concert ticket collector, denotes that the evolution in ticketing does not spell the end of the popular collectible as a whole.
“From those benchmark and individual events like opening night, the Winter and Heritage Classics or All-Star games, a commemorative ticket is always going to be an important part,” she said. “Whether that’s available as an automatic for everybody or as an option, depending on whether or not a fan wants that, that’s something very important to us, and as we’ve been working with Ticketmaster, they’re always considerate and concerned about making sure those options are always available in advance.”