Will the St. John’s Maple Leafs have played their last game on the rock? It could very well be, if things fall into place as quickly as the Toronto Star suggests. The story out of Toronto is that the financial problems of the Toronto Roadrunner franchise may open up the doors for a relocation of Newfoundland’s AHL franchise to Toronto.
Toronto has been struggling with their farm club for a couple of years now as travel costs began to outstrip the revenues being generated in St. John’s. While the local population has been great supporters of the Baby Leafs, the fact that the nearest team is in Maine has been a logistical nightmare for the folks at MLSE. Not to mention the problems the distant franchise poses when trying to call up players on an emergency basis.
For the folks in St. John’s the departure of the Baby Buds would be a hearty loss, the population has taken the team to their hearts and followed their adopted sons with pride. To have them removed with nary a goodbye would be a most unkind fate. But alas it appears that just may be the fate awaiting both players and fans.
The economics of operating a hockey team in Toronto may outweigh the spirit provided on the Island. The Oilers are looking to move their farm club out of the Ricoh centre if the mess locally isn’t cleared up soon, Toronto would merely have to pay off the territorial charge and take over the rights to the west side arena.
One final item to consider that may seal the fate of St. John’s is the fact that there may not be any hockey in the NHL next year. If the Leafs have moved their farm club right into the city they stand to have a very successful year as Leaf fans file into the Ricoh centre to view the farmhands. With the AHL poised to be the only professional hockey in Canada next year, a timely move to Toronto from St. John’s could end up being a money maker. And that unfortunately may be the bottom line when it comes to where to place the Baby Leafs. Sadly for St. John’s and Newfoundland they may not fit into this new era of the NHL!