Leading our own cheers

Pose

Intelligent, articulate women who also danced for the Marlies Dance Crew

This past weekend brought the start to another season of my beloved Toronto Marlies. And as is the case with every new season, we were met by many familiar faces and a lot of new ones, both on and off the ice.

What we were not met with this season, however, is the Marlies Dance Crew, the small group of women who entertain during stoppages in play. And I find myself oddly torn over this.

On the one hand, I have never been comfortable with the Dance Crew as a concept, and cheerleading squads for pro sports teams in general (I see high school and college squads in a different light).

In the absence of male squad members, the Dance Crew simply seemed like a salacious attempt to get a rise out of parts of the crowd…and based on comments I would hear around me, it worked.

Blur

Torn between dance as art and cheerleading as objectifying women

By the same token, over the seasons, I have actually come to know many of the Dance Crew members, finding them charming, articulate women who enjoy the art of dance. They are friends and part of the Marlies family, with whom I try to maintain contact via social media even after they have moved on to other things.

Cheerleaders in hockey is an odd thing, and I appreciate that it would be impossible—given the concrete floors and metal railings—to perform truly acrobatic stunts that you might see at college events. This may be why the whole Dance Crew concept never sat right with me, because in the absence of that artistic/athletic angle, it felt like the women were reduced to eye-candy.

Thus, while I will miss getting to know new family members, I am not terribly heartbroken over the Dance Crew’s absence this season.

And to the members who have moved on, I wish you all every success and hope you visit the Ricoh Coliseum on occasion, so we can say hi.

Family and friends

Family and friends

Toronto Marlies v WBS Penguins

A handful of the better shots from Friday’s game between the #1 (Toronto Marlies) and #2 (WBS Penguins) teams in the American Hockey League standings.

Toronto came back from a 2-0 deficit after two periods to defeat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4-2. (Video highlights)

Fans & friends at the Marlies

Although I spend most of my time focused on the ice at a Toronto Marlies game, I also like to turn the camera into the stands. Here are a few of the crazies at Star Wars Night at the Ricoh Coliseum on Saturday.

Win-Win weekend for Marlies

For those of you who don’t like hockey, you will be forgiven for moving along. For the rest of you: PICTURES!

Another amazing weekend in the 2015-16 Toronto Marlies hockey season as the American Hockey League-leading team continued their winning ways.

After an extended but successful road trip–an annual pilgrimage triggered by Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair–the Baby Buds returned home to defeat the Rochester Americans 5-1 and the Binghamton Senators 6-4 before impressive Ricoh Coliseum crowds.

If you want an impressive recount of both games, I highly recommend you check out the blog of my friend UKhockeyfan, linked below:

Rochester Americans vs Toronto Marlies (Saturday, November 21)

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Binghamton Senators vs Toronto Marlies (Sunday, November 22)

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Bringing joy to others

I’m not a celeb-stalker generally, but I was killing time with my camera downtown when I stumbled across a crowd awaiting the arrival of movie stars (no one knew who) for the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF.

I managed to grab a couple of shots of Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons (check out my Twitter feed), but I specifically loved this photo. If you can bring this type of joy to people in your life or to those completely peripheral to it, you have done well.

After premiering his movie, Dev Patel came back out to embrace his fans.

After premiering his movie, Dev Patel came back out to embrace his fans.

Shhh…the Toronto Marlies made the playoffs

hurray

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.

I speak of my beloved Toronto Marlies, the American Hockey League farm team of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Nary a word. Nary a reporter. No pictures. Doesn’t exist.

Star sports coverage

The team is covered by bloggers whom I respect:

But otherwise, silence.

Mark (facing us) came all the way from the UK to watch the Marlies play. Toronto sports reporters, not so much.

Mark (facing us) came all the way from the UK to watch the Marlies play. Toronto sports reporters, not so much.

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.

playoffs