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Would we care as much if the Marlies were located elsewhere?

I won't try to suggest that Leaf fans are as geared up about the Toronto Marlies advancing to the AHL Calder Cup finals as we would  be if it was the Maple Leafs who were preparing for the NHL finals.  But in the absence of the Leafs making that kind of headway just yet, a lot of folks are nonetheless pretty excited about what the Marlies are poised to achieve.

Though there is no real historical trend at play here that suggests Marlie success will ultimately translate into the Leafs having similar success,  we naturally are hopeful that, at the very least, a number of the young Marlies will have an impact with the big team before too much more time passes.

Gardiner and Frattin are already full-time Leafs, but others may earn a ticket to the ACC by as early as next season—whether at the opening bell in October, or at some juncture throughout the course of the 23012-’13 NHL season.

Whether the Marlies overcome a pretty strong Norfolk Admirals side in a series that gets underway this coming Friday, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.  But regardless, they have had an outstanding season.  We all recognize that while Brian Burke has supplied the talent, head coach Dallas Eakins deserves immense credit for taking that talent and doing something not all minor-league coaches can do:  work well with a young team, develop the promising talent, and win at the same time.

But here’s my question for today: while a big part of the equation here is that we are excited, as Leaf supporters, about what Marlie success could mean for the blue and white, how much of our current active cheering for the Marlies has to do with location?

Here’s what I mean:  if you trace the history of the Maple Leaf organization, they’ve had farm teams forever, in various markets. I was corresponding with folks on Twitter the other day, and Sean  @seandelville mentioned, for example, how the Leafs used to have an AHL team in Pittsburgh that won the Calder Cup in the early 1950s.

We all understand that an organization’s “farm team” generally supplies important prospects to the big club.  That pipeline is important for every NHL franchise.  But let’s face it, most of the time fans of the NHL   club don't generally pay a lot of attention to their minor-league team.  Oh, they care in the sense that they may follow the so-called “top prospects” in the organization, but beyond that, there isn’t much emotional investment.  The attachment is just not the same as it is with the NHL team.

Now, when it comes to the Marlies, did we care as much when they were located in St. John’s?  Would we be as excited now if the Toronto Marlies were still the St. John’s Marlies?  Or is a lot of the current excitement stemming from the fact that the Marlies are a “Toronto” team, and that it’s been a long time (as we all know) since Toronto has had a hockey champion (Canadian University hockey and the old Junior “A” Marlies aside)?

Send your thoughts along…


  1. I would guess now that the Marlies play out of Toronto and I think I'm right in saying they get a pretty good turn out at the Ricoh (in the regular season as well) so with fans taking an interest in the team if they were to be relocated it would probably come up against stiff opposition
    Where before when they played out of St Johns or as you pointed out in your piece Pittsburgh it would only be a farm team to a lot of people
    So people who maybe can't afford to go to the ACC to watch a game will do the next best thing and go watch the Marlies because they are local

  2. Thanks icebhoy (Iain). Fan interest has really built this season. In their early days here, the crowds were pretty small. Now, they get solid turnouts many nights. The playoffs have been very good most nights, in terms of attendance.

  3. I was too young to enjoy the farm team briefly playing in St. Catharines, I'd def. be hardcore about them if they were here.

    I've enjoyed the Marlies games I've been too, but they're #3 in my list of hockey teams right now, but being local helps make it a close #3

  4. St. Catharines, Newmarket in more recent times- exactly, elseldo.

    In the "old days", the Leafs had farm teams, I remember, in Tulsa, Victoria, Rochester, Oklahoma City and of course, more recently in St. John's.

    Thanks elseldo!

  5. Hey, thanks for the shout out, Michael!
    I would say location definitely matters.I always try and catch a few Marlies games a year,both in Toronto and when they play in Hamilton,initially to see former and future NHLers up close at a bargain price, but having the chance to go to a game in each round of the playoffs,has a fan of the Marlies, not just because they are the Leafs' farm team, but perhaps because based on the Marlies' goaltending,PK, and playoff performance to date, I would say the big club would be in very tough to beat them at this point!

  6. Hi question the Marlies have been awfully good this spring...all season long, really. There has been a lot to like about their performance, especially in the areas you cite (PK, etc.).

  7. I am a Leaf fan in Western Canada. Location of the farm team doesn't really matter, unless they were playing in Saskatchewan. (There's a good idea. I bet they would sell allot of tickets...lots of Leaf fans on lonely western farms.)

    In short, I follow the Marlies because they are Leaf prospects. I really enjoy seeing the kids work their way onto the big team.

  8. I don't doubt for a moment, DP, that a Leaf AHL team in Saskatchewan would be successful. There is a long history of Leaf support there.

  9. The biggest reason why it matters (and the chief reason the team relocated to Toronto to begin with) is the ease the Leafs have calling up players from the Marlies due to their proximity.

    Not living in Toronto I would love it if the Leafs farm team was in Halifax. But I think they could be located in Dubai right now and I'd still be excited for this run.

    I think fan turnout would be much better if it were easier to access the Ricoh through public transit. The few games I've watched (having flown in Toronto for a few sports weekends) we usually had to pay cab fares which isn't an option for everyone trying to get hockey in on the cheap.

  10. Thanks Alex. I agree, and I also think that, at this particular time in the history of the Leafs as an organization, a newer generation of fans is particularly tuned in to what the big club needs. The fact that the Marlies are so close to the ACC is convenient, for sure, and may help with local support.

    That all said, the AHL is generally best-suited to smaller communities where it is the big draw in town (Hershey, Rochester) and in places like St. John's, where people care deeply about the local team.

    As DP alluded to yesterday, heck, Saskatchewan would be ideal, too. A Leaf farm team there would go over big...