Ticketmaster website taking deposits for “Hamilton Predators” NHL franchise

Ticketmaster began taking deposits for “Hamilton Predators” season tickets on Thursday even though Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie’s purchase of the NHL team in Nashville has yet to be approved.

Balsillie’s lawyer Richard Rodier was reluctant to comment on ticket sales when reached late Thursday afternoon, but did say that almost 60 deposits of $5,000 for corporate boxes at Copps Coliseum had been received.

“I’ve put a cut-off on the suites because we’re quickly approaching selling out the suites,” said Rodier, before adding: “You can take that as a reflection of interest generally.”

A Ticketmaster spokesperson said it was against company policy to release information on ticket sales.

The tickets are being offered on a first-come, first-serve basis and deposits will be refunded if the team isn’t moved to Hamilton by December 2009. Those who put down money can also receive a refund for any reason in the meantime.

While $5,000 is required to reserve a corporate box, a $500 deposit will get you an upper bowl seat and $1,000 is needed for a seat in the lower bowl.

“The money’s perfectly safe, it’s kept in a trust fund with Ticketmaster, it’s refundable for any reason whatsoever at any time,” said Rodier.

Ryan Salter of Guelph, Ont., split the deposit on two upper bowl tickets with three friends.

Salter, 28, is a Calgary Flames fan and often travels to see NHL games in Buffalo, where his parents had four season tickets last year.

He wasn’t concerned about forking out money for a deposit because his ticket group is “in for the long haul.”

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If the team ends up in Hamilton, Salter wants to be a part of the action. He feels the city can support an NHL franchise.

“The NHL pre-season games are always packed when they have them there,” said Salter. “I don’t think I’d have any trouble getting rid of my tickets on the off chance I didn’t use them myself.”

Salter’s parents Ward and Diane Campbell also put down deposits on four season tickets in Hamilton. He also expected that other friends would be doing the same thing.

“There’s been lots of talk over e-mail,” said Salter.

The problem, of course, is that the team is still very much in Nashville and not even in Balsillie’s control.

The NHL’s board of governors has yet to approve Balsillie’s proposed purchase of the Nashville team for between US$220 million and $238 million.

Rodier has said that Hamilton is a contingency plan in case things don’t work out in Nashville. Despite having one of the best teams in the NHL last year, the Predators attendance was among the worst in the league.

Hamilton has long been rumoured as a potential NHL city and has actually held a ticket drive before. More than 13,000 season tickets were sold in 1990 when Hamilton was bidding for an expansion franchise.

Even with deposits being made through Ticketmaster, this could very well be another disappointment for those eager to see an NHL team in the city.