Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Baby Leafs mark 1000 games

Hockey on the rock has been a fixture for Newfoundlanders for many, many years. The Newfoundland Senior League has provided countless seasons of hockey excitement, pitting townie against baymen. But the pro game has become a true love as well. The St. John's Maple Leafs celebrated 1000 games on Saturday night, as a sell out crowd watched them mark the occasion with a win over the Toronto Roadrunners.

The Baby Leafs are the last of the Atlantic province teams left in the AHL. Halifax, Sydney, Moncton, St. John, Fredricton and Charlottetown all tried and eventually called it quits. Only Newfoundland has consistently supported their Leafs year in and year out. Saturday night saw a Wall of Fame introduced to the Mile One Arena, where the key architects of the team were honoured with plaques.

While Saturday night was a night to celebrate, there is a dark cloud on the horizon. Relations between the owners and operators in St. John's and their counterparts in the big smoke of Toronto, are not particularly cordial these days. The bean counters at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment don't like the cost of business in their present location, it is off the beaten path now of the AHL, the nearest rival for the Leafs is either in Maine or Syracuse. Travel to and from the Rock is by plane, in a league built on bus trips this is a pretty high expense. Perhaps Toronto wants their farm hands a little closer to the ranch, making call ups easier to move in and out.

Over the years they tried and failed in other locations close to Toronto, so where to move them could be a tough call. Hopefully, there can be some way to keep them in St. John's, it's a great hockey town, they support their Leafs and there is something truly Canadian about having a team at the farthest city in the East. It tells the world that Canada truly is a HockeyNation. Interest in the Leafs has always been high in Newfoundland, the two favourite teams, as was the case in most of pre expansion Canada were always Toronto and Montreal. With the arrival of the Baby Leafs, one would suspect that the ratio is weighted in favour of Toronto now. Be a shame to lose all that good will after all these years.

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