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WINNIPEG – It’s not Gary Bettman’s presence in Winnipeg that’s alarming Jets fans. That is the purpose.

The NHL commissioner drops in most markets during the regular season. When he spoke to the Winnipeg media last season, he opened his speech by saying that he had no immediate problems or news to announce.

This season’s tour came with high expectations, but Bettman was unequivocal in his support for True North as an ownership team and for Winnipeg as an NHL market.

“I think there was a lot of speculation about why I came here today,” Bettman said in Winnipeg Tuesday. “This is a place where hockey is important. I believe this is a strong NHL market. I believe ownership has made extraordinary commitments to the Jets, this arena and the downtown area, involving hundreds of millions of dollars. I’m not sure why people assume that somehow (no NHL) it won’t happen here.

Jets chairman Mark Chipman revealed The athletics Winnipeg ticket sales last week were down 27 per cent in three years, from an estimated 13,000 to just under 9,500.

Chipman I wouldn’t be honest with you if I said last week, “We need to get back to 13,000.” “The position we find ourselves in now will not last long. Not only.”

Bettman in 2010 In 2011, the Jets said they needed to fill every game in order for the NHL to operate in Winnipeg. On Tuesday, he qualified that statement regarding his season-ticket commitment.

“I know Mark Chipman and David Thomson are not interested in just surviving in the NHL. They want to prosper,” Bettman said. “This will be resolved. I don’t see this as a crisis, but like any market group, I believe there needs to be cooperation between the community and the fan and the club and I believe it will be here in the end.

Bettman expressed similar optimism during his visit to Winnipeg last season. The Jets played at 93.6 percent capacity in 2022-23, according to Hockey Reference, but that number dropped to 87.3 percent this season.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Bettman played down fears that the franchise could be relocated soon if the season ticket base is not increased soon.

Bettman added, “The crowd really needs to improve.” “I have faith in the organization and most importantly, I have faith in this community.”

Chipman recently took matters into his own hands, calling former ticket holders to get a better understanding of why they gave up their seats. He’s even made house calls: Chipman was joined by fellow stars Josh Morrissey and Mark Scheifele during a recent visit to the former ticket holder’s home. Chipman believes it’s part of True North’s overall strategy to improve customer service and sales as the team sells out full season tickets in minutes and sells out the building for a record eight consecutive seasons. .

“We haven’t been a sales organization for 10 years. We were a service organization, and to be honest with you, I’m not sure we were a good service organization,” Chipman said. The athletics.

Chipman was similarly remorseful in his speech to fans gathered at the Canadian Life Center before Tuesday’s game. Flanked by Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Chipman apologized for past customer service failures, particularly regarding the flexibility of season ticket packages. Customer service has been cited as a reason for leaving by some former ticket holders.

Earlier in the day, Morrissey shared his excitement with Jets fans at the opportunity to visit with Chipman and Scheifele.

“In my view, a Canadian can’t get any better than that. An outdoor walk on three front yards with trees in the middle of the snow,” Morrissey said. “I think that’s what I’ve always valued about the Jets organization and Mr. Chipman’s commitment to the city of Winnipeg, his love for the city of Winnipeg.

“I think it’s another example of him trying to get the players to interact with their biggest fans in a situation and be a part of this community.

True North’s investment in the Jets has been heavy and ongoing: Winnipeg acquired former captain Blake Wheeler this offseason, before signing trade acquisition Gabriel Vilardi in July and longtime stars Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck to seven-year, $8.5 million AAV extensions in October. Winnipeg recently re-signed Nino Niederreiter to a two-year contract and earlier this month acquired Sean Monaghan from Montreal to strengthen their roster. True North announced a $13 million renovation to the Canada Life Center in September.

Here are more notes and quotes from Bettman’s presence with Winnipeg media on Tuesday.

On the epidemic and why the Jets have been struggling to fill the arena.

Bettman ran through a laundry list of why Winnipeg might struggle, concluding with his message that it doesn’t matter how the Jets got here — he’s counting on True North to lead them forward.

“Some people say people don’t want to come downtown at night. Some people say the team’s performance should have been better – although it was excellent. Some people say that the season ticket drive was not good at first. Some people say it was the plague. All our clubs have weathered the pandemic. It may affect some markets more than others, but again, we are where we are. We believe in this market and focus on the fact that ownership believes in this market.

On corporate support in Winnipeg

A major theme of the Winnipeg talks was the lack of corporate support compared to other markets. The Jets sell 15 percent of season tickets to corporate interest.

During their trip to Winnipeg, Bettman and Daley met with local businessmen. Bettman was asked if he needs to see a limit on corporate season-ticket commitments.

“It’s not what I need to see. “What you want to do is ensure that you have a franchise that has strong support from wherever the fans come from, whether it’s ticketing the business community, whether it’s advertising the business community, promoting and activating around the club,” Bettman said. I believe the club has received strong support in this regard.

Bettman also said that if True North could go back to 2011 when it sold its first ticket, it might be wise to reserve “four or five thousand tickets” for corporate bodies.

“They didn’t,” Bettman said. But this is history,” he said. “We are where we are, so we are moving forward.”

Good health on the timeline

Bettman said neither he nor True North are making any decisions or deadlines. Instead, the focus is on making sure the fan base is “highly engaged.”

“We don’t work on Damocles’ sword or blade,” Bettman said. “That’s part of the evolution that franchises go through sometimes. I remember a lot of other Canadian franchises, for example, some like small markets, some old season ticket base. And they had to go rebuild with young fans. It happens. Let’s be clear about one thing: this strong “I believe it’s the NHL market. It will adjust.”

Jets as a model franchise

Bettman has expressed concern about the possibility of a move elsewhere, given the level of concern among fans. He pointed to True North’s “hundreds of millions” of dollars in the team, arena and downtown area.

“That’s why it’s foolish for anyone to think anything other than focusing their ownership agenda on Winnipeg.”

Daley heaped praise on Bettman.

“I would say this is a team that is widely recognized around the league as a model franchise,” Daley said. “A good run from top to bottom, puts a competitive hockey team on the ice, takes it all the way out. But like Gary said, he invests in the community and all their philanthropic initiatives and their investment in the city. We wish we had 32 of them.”

Winnipeg receives revenue sharing

Bettman confirmed that the Jets will and will continue to receive payments under the NHL’s revenue sharing system. Bettman was asked if there was any pressure from the league’s board of governors for Winnipeg to improve hockey-related revenue (HRR).

“If your question in any way suggests or suggests that there is concern at the board level about this franchise, the answer is absolutely no.”

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(Gary Bettman photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)