The early indications are the Brandon Wheat Kings are on their way to reversing a trend of slumping season ticket sales.
The Western Hockey League club has announced that it sold 1,662 season tickets by its early-bird deadline at the end of the business day on Friday, up from 1,629 at this time last season and from 1,648 at the 2012 early-bird deadline. While it’s a modest increase, it is an encouraging sign for the club as it looks to build its ticket base for the 2014-15 season after slipping to 2,361 season-ticket holders last season.
"Yeah, we were hopeful that the increase would have been larger than what it is to date and yet we’re encouraged that there has been quite a few new season tickets sold, and that’s a good sign for us and we will continue to sell through the summer and into September in advance of the season opening," said Kelly McCrimmon, the Wheat Kings owner, head coach and general manager.
"I think it was helpful for us that we were selling season tickets while our team was still playing, that was a good move by us ... and I think people are excited about our team and the upcoming year."
<t-4>The Wheat Kings bounced back from a rough 24-40-4-4 record two years ago to go
34-29-6-3 last season, a 21-point jump in the standings that was capped off by a first-round playoff sweep of the Regina Pats before being eliminated by the eventual Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings in Round 2.<t$>
The Wheat Kings look to build upon that success this season with a strong core of young talent that features the likes of 18-year-old scorers John Quenneville and Jayce Hawryluk and 20-year-old Czech sniper Richard Nejezchleb, who were all ranked by Central Scouting among the top 50 North American skaters for this year’s NHL draft in Philadelphia from June 27-28.
That Wheat King lineup will only get better in the coming seasons as the club looks to add the likes of blue-chip bantam draft picks Nolan Patrick, Kale Clague and Brandon-born Tanner Kaspick to the lineup this fall, with the club’s first-ever first overall draft pick, Stelio Mattheos, eligible to join the club full-time in 2015-16.
Wheat King season ticket holders will also get first dibs on tickets to watch Team WHL face Russia in Game 2 of the Subway Super Series on Remembrance Day, Nov. 11, at Westman Place.
"The Subway game is exciting for our organization, the NHL draft, being able to select first in the bantam draft, those are all things that are good for our organization," McCrimmon said. "We are anxious to see where our players are drafted at the NHL draft in a couple of weeks, that will be exciting for us as well, and then of course the import draft after that."
Some Wheat King season ticket holders are also expected to take advantage of seat moving day today — starting at 9 a.m. — when they have the opportunity to change sections and move up to vacant seats and others previously held by ticket holders who did not hold onto their seats. The Wheat Kings will hold another season-ticket blitz in August in the lead-up to training camp.
ICINGS: Long-time season ticket holder Stephen Jackson of Brandon won the Wheat Kings’ early-bird grand prize draw of a trip for two with hotels and flights to Toronto to see the Blue Jays in a three-game series next month ... Nesbitt native Aaron Rome was put on unconditional waivers by the NHL’s Dallas Stars on Monday, with the intention to buy out the final season of his three-year, $4.5-million contract. The veteran defenceman was limited to 26 games this past season after undergoing hip surgery ... The Moose Jaw Warriors have acquired D Austin Adam from the Everett Silvertips for a conditional 2015 eighth-round bantam draft pick.