The parade of teams coming up with ways to thank their fans for sticking around through yet another lockout continued on Thursday. The Toronto Maple Leafs stepped up to the plate and joined the fun.
The team announced that their 15,000 season-ticket holders will be entering the Jan. 21 home opener against the Buffalo Sabres for free. The club will also be handing out an additional 1,000 free tickets "through a variety of promotions" leading up to the game.
"We're excited to be back on the ice and believe our fans deserve a very special thank you for the time we were away," said new Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis in a team press release. "Giving back a game to the fans is the right thing to do, and we can't wait to see Air Canada Centre full of our passionate fans on Monday night."
Over the next four days, the Maple Leafs' ‘Blue and White Crew' will be on the search for fans showing Leafs pride and wearing team apparel. The Blue and White Crew will visit various locations throughout the Greater Toronto Area randomly awarding tickets for the Home Opener to proud members of Leafs Nation. Maple Leafs fans are encouraged to follow the team online at mapleleafs.com, on Twitter @mapleleafs, Facebook and the Leafs Last Minute Club for additional chances to win tickets to the Home Opener.
Of course, if there is one team in the NHL that doesn't have to resort to promotions to get fans back in the building, it's the Maple Leafs. I imagine their fans would crawl over glass to get in the building no matter how long the lockout had lasted or how bad the team projects to be.
Based on the early reaction from fans in several NHL cities, from season-ticket sales and the overwhelming attendance at team practices and scrimmages, it doesn't seem that attendance will be an issue for most teams throughout the league, although it could be for some.
Other ticket promotions around the league include the Florida Panthers, who have seats starting for as little as $7 and include a free jersey and parking, and the Tampa Bay Lightning, who offered 200 season tickets for just $200.