Winnipeg’s “Drive to 13” off to a huge start

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When True North made their announcement that they were going to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers and move the team to Winnipeg, they made it clear that they had another task to complete. True North shifted their focus to having the fans in Winnipeg and around Manitoba, Canada step up and show the NHL that they’re serious about having the team come to Winnipeg and be successful there.

True North started their “Drive To 13” campaign in which they want to sell 13,000 season tickets by June 21 when the NHL Board of Governors will meet and vote whether to approve the sale and relocation of the franchise. In True North’s mind, and perhaps the NHL’s as well, selling 13,000 season tickets in just a matter of three weeks is a good way to prove they’re serious about bringing a team back.

So far it appears that they’re very serious about buying tickets as well.

By late afternoon Thursday, True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd., announced 4,170 season tickets were sold, which is almost equal to the 4,500 season tickets for the departing Manitoba Moose. All season tickets come with a commitment from the buyer from three to five years.

This is significant because the first three days of the online campaign are only open to groups of subscribers to the Moose, the American Hockey League team that is being moved to St. John’s.

That’s a pretty healthy percentage of people who are eligible to buy the tickets early taking advantage of the early sale. With the general season ticket sales opening up to the rest of Winnipeg and ticket buyers around, it’s hard to imagine that the team will run into any problems at all meeting the goal of 13,000. With just 8,830 tickets left to go, you’d have to imagine that with sales being opened up to the rest of the public things will go over rather smoothly.

MTS Centre in Winnipeg holds just over 15,000 fans so getting a commitment of 13,000 like that right up front is huge. Should all those tickets get bought up that guarantees having 87% of the building filled (or at least paid for) no matter what for at least the next three seasons. For what it’s worth, an 87% filled building would put Winnipeg 22nd in the NHL for capacity percentage this year. With up to 2,000 walk up tickets available each game that number isn’t too inspiring, but considering that season ticket sales won’t be stopped once they hit 13,000 we’ve got a good feeling about how things will shake out in Winnipeg attendance-wise in the meantime.

It’s a situation worth monitoring until they hit their target number, but we’ve got a feeling this watch on the “Drive To 13” won’t last all that long. The fans in Winnipeg have been hoping for a return of the NHL for the last 15 years and they’re not about to let it slip away now.

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.