My beloved hometown Toronto is often described as “hockey-mad”, and as home to the Hockey Hall of Fame and one of the most legendary franchises in National Hockey League history—the Toronto Maple Leafs—you might think that makes sense. The epithet hockey-mad is, however, a lie.
Toronto is not hockey-mad, it is Maple Leafs-mad.
In fact, it is now Maple Leafs-livid because yet again, the big team has failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs and so my fair city will go a 48th consecutive year without a championship.
Still legendary, but for entirely the wrong reasons.
But while the local news media are filled with stories about what the woeful Toronto hockey fans will do as the Leafs players take to the golf courses, they are completely overlooking one local professional hockey team that has made the playoffs—for the fourth consecutive season.
Nary a word. Nary a reporter. No pictures. Doesn’t exist.
The team is covered by bloggers whom I respect:
But otherwise, silence.
To address this short-coming, I have started a campaign with other Marlies fans to bombard the local media with news and highlights of what is happening in Toronto playoff hockey. My first missive is below:
Playoff hockey in Toronto
Over the past week, I have read two stories in the Sports Section of the Toronto Star describing what playoff-starved Torontonians can do now that the Maple Leafs have hit the golf links. Woe is Toronto in the absence of playoff hockey.
And yet, Toronto will play host to professional playoff hockey, and by players proudly sporting blue and white maple leaves. I am, of course, speaking of the Toronto Marlies, the farm team of the moribund Toronto Maple Leafs.
You see, as the ACC has sat deathly quiet, the Ricoh Coliseum just a little way down Lakeshore Boulevard has been rocking night after night as the Marlies rescued a terrible season start and turned it into a rollicking run back into the Calder Cup playoff race.
Last night, with a loss by the Hamilton Bulldogs and a win by the Marlies, Toronto’s boys in blue clinched their fourth consecutive playoff spot, and over the next two days, could see themselves sit anywhere from 6th to 8th in the AHL Western Conference.
And how did the boys do in their previous runs at the Calder Cup? Three years ago, they reached the championship finals, only to fall to the juggernaut that was the Norfolk Admirals. Last year, they were within 22 minutes of advancing to yet another Calder Cup final, but fell to the ultimate champion Texas Stars.
Sure, everyone was disappointed that the boys didn’t bring home the Cup, but in a city that is used to switching allegiances in April, touting a hockey team as Conference Finalist and Cup Finalist is pretty heady stuff.
With the house-cleaning planned up the road at the ACC, the Marlies have never had a greater importance to the Maple Leafs. The boys I watch on a weekly basis are the future of the big squad. Rookie scoring champion Connor Brown. Future phenom William Nylander. Tomorrow’s goaltending duo Christopher Gibson and Antoine Bibeau. Former Defenceman of the Year TJ Brennan. I can keep going.
So as your readers bemoan being unable to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars taking in one Leafs playoff game, they should know that they can come down the road a bit (plenty of parking) and bring the whole family (for a fraction of the price) to cheer the Marlies as they march into Calder Cup competition.
I’ll be cheering the boys. My friends will be cheering the boys. Come on down. We’ll give you a warm welcome!
Go Marlies, Go!
Wish me (and the Marlies) luck.