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Warming Wings; fans wait in line for tickets

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings forward Tomas Kopecky signs a calendar for a fan Wednesday morning. Nearly 300 fans waited up to 90-minutes to purchase Wings' tickets. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – Like more than 300 other folks, Brandon Mantay braved arctic temperatures and a stiff wind blowing off the Detroit River for more than 90-minutes on Wednesday morning.

The wait was well worth it for Mantay, of Grosse Ile, Mich., who stood in line along Steve Yzerman Drive to purchase tickets to see his favorite hockey team.

On Wednesday, the Red Wings made available to the public their very popular $9 seats for home games in December. Fans could purchase up to two tickets each to as many as two games.

“We got here about 8:30 (a.m.), so we were in line for an hour and a half,” said Mantay, 22, who waited with his mom, Brenda. “It wasn’t that bad, plus they supplied hot chocolate, which helped. It’s a great price for the tickets.”

Fans who battled the blistery weather conditions where also treated to more than hot cocoa and donuts. Members of the Wings’ marketing department handed out 15-month team calendars and pocket schedules.

But the real surprise for Wings’ fans came when coach Mike Babcock and some players stopped by to greet the crowd. Babcock was joined by forwards Tomas Kopecky and Aaron Downey, and defenseman Derek Meech. They handed out calendars, signed a few autographs and posed for pictures.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Brandon Mantay said.

Babock fielded many questions from the fans in line. The most common questions seemed to
Coach Mike Babcock talks to a Wings' fan Wednesday morning outside of the Joe Louis Arena box office. The Wings' coach shared some laughs, signed autographs and took pictures with the crowd. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)
concern the team’s goaltending situation and the health of center Kris Draper, who suffered a sprained left knee in Tuesday’s 5-3 win over Calgary.

“Pro sports isn’t pro sports without the fans,” Babcock said. “It’s always been about the fans and it’s always going to be. It’s great that they can afford to come down here and it’s great that they’re willing to come out here and freeze to death and get tickets.”

With the poor economic times gripping southeastern Michigan, most fans like Larry Bohr of Wyandotte are quite appreciative of the $9 ticket offer.

“Tough times and cheap tickets,” said Bohr, who waited in line with his wife, Lisa. “It was awesome.”

While the conditions weren’t ideal for signing autographs outdoors, the Wings’ players enjoyed spending some time with their fans.

“It’s my first year here and it’s actually amazing to see so many people who know who I am,” Meech said. “It’s good, it’s cold out, but it’s good to come out and make some people happy and get some autographs.”

With gas prices at more than $3 a gallon, rising property taxes, and the number of foreclosures hitting record-highs in metro Detroit, the players said they appreciate the fans’ continued support.

“We’ve gotten some good feedback from some of the people out here, and they’re pretty excited,” Meech said. “These days it’s a little harder to come by tickets; sometimes they’re a little too expensive, but it’s good to see prices dropping a little bit so that people can enjoy the games.

“There are a bunch of teams around Detroit, whether it’s the Pistons or the Tigers, so people have to decide which games they’re going to go to, so it’s good to see all of these people in line.”

Single-seat tickets, ranging from $22 to $54, for the remainder of the regular-season also went on sale Wednesday.
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