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Teams offering variety of welcome back promotions

by John Kreiser /

With a compressed training camp before the 48-game regular-season schedule begins Saturday, NHL teams are using a variety of methods to say "thank you" this week to their fans for their loyalty.

Most teams have opened their practices to fans -- Edmonton and Vancouver are even offering refreshments. Many have scheduled either intra-squad games or scrimmages against their minor-league teams that are also free and open to the public; some teams are offering free parking and free or discounted concessions as well.

Teams are also planning giveaways and contests, free or discounted tickets, merchandise, parking and concessions, as well as other promotions as they prepare to welcome fans back, beginning this weekend. In addition, clubs are doling out extra benefits to those who buy season tickets, with many teams offering additional complementary tickets and other premiums.

Many teams are also using their websites and social media outlets to stage contests throughout the season. For example, the New Jersey Devils are holding a contest on their site that will give the winner two season tickets.

Here are some of the highlights as NHL teams prepare to welcome fans back to the rinks this weekend:

* Dallas and Ottawa are offering ticket promotions that will let a child in for free when an adult buys a full-price ticket. The Stars are offering the deal through February for youngsters 12 and under; the Senators are doing it for several of their first 10 games, including opening night, for those 14 and under.

* Nashville is giving ticket buyers for Game 1 on Saturday night attend the Preds' second game on Monday for free. The Predators are also among numerous teams offering discounted concessions.

* Vancouver and Boston are offering a "jersey off their back" promotion on opening night, with fans winning game-worn sweaters from players. Minnesota is letting its players keep their jerseys, but the Wild will offer autographed sweaters (by seat location) at their opener.

* Some teams are holding or have held Fan Fests, but the Washington Capitals have declared this week as "Fan Appreciation Week." The Caps are among the teams with open practices, and are offering prizes such as autographed sticks and pucks as well as meet and greets with players, free tickets and access to a luxury suite during the week. The highlight of the week comes Thursday, when the Caps are hosting an open practice at the Verizon Center offering complimentary refreshments, photo opportunities and a question-and-answer session with players.

* Want to go on a road trip with your team? On opening night, the Bruins and Canucks are giving fans the opportunity to win just such an experience, including a flight on the team's charter. Others teams such as Calgary are offering insider and VIP experiences at home games as prizes for lucky fans.

* Tampa Bay, which held a fan fest on the opening day of camp, offered 200 season tickets for $200 apiece. The Lightning's in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers, are offering season tickets for as low as $7 a seat, along with free parking and a jersey, as part of their "7th Man" season theme as they work to build on the franchise's first-ever division title.

* Fans in Montreal can get a treat before the Canadiens host Toronto in their opening game on Saturday night. The Canadiens are opening the Bell Centre to fans who want to attend the morning skate for both teams -- and will throw in some free food to those who come.

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