The Toronto Maple Leafs have not been a good hockey team over the last decade plus. However, that fact means they have given several young players opportunities to dawn the big blue leaf on their sweaters while playing at the Air Canada Centre.
Historically, the Toronto Marlies, the American Hockey League club of the Maple Leafs, have played one game a season at the ACC. It’s a good chance for fans of the Leafs’ to see their future and for their up and coming players to get the feel for playing at an Air Canada Centre crowd.
Well, those Marlies players are going to get even more of an opportunity moving forward.
Previously, the Marlies had been the only AHL team in the same city as their NHL parent club. Though they did not play at the ACC as their home arena, with their own separate rink, the Marlies can no longer boast themselves the only team in this situation. The San Jose Sharks moved their team from Worcester out to the Bay Area to become the San Jose Barracuda, and they will share the SAP Center. The Winnipeg Jets also relocated their affiliate from St. John’s, Nova Scotia, to revive the Manitoba Moose who will play at the MTS Centre alongside the Jets.
Historically, for the last four seasons, at least, the Marlies have played their Air Canada Centre home date on Boxing Day. Calling it the Boxing Day Classic, they paired up against the Montreal Canadiens minor league affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. According to TheHockeyWriters, the game drew in 18,800 fans in 2012 while the NHL was in their lock out.
The way the schedule looks now for the Marlies will allow the ACC to host four doubleheaders between the Maple Leafs and their AHL clubs. All four of the dates for the Marlies are Saturday afternoons where the Maple Leafs play Hockey Night in Canada later on that evening.
The Marlies will also continue the tradition of playing the Canadiens AHL affiliate at the ACC. All but one of their games at the Maple Leafs home will be against Montreal’s new affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps. The former Winnipeg affiliate was taken over by the Habs when the Jets moved their team out west. The Bulldogs themselves became an OHL junior club.
Until 2005, the Marlies had been the St. John’s Maple Leafs, so there is another layer to the rivalry itself.