Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
May 27 2014 09:03PM
It's been a really long time since I've talked about the Toronto Marlies from a "people in the seats" perspective. There's been so much to talk about in terms of what is happening on the ice, that there hasn't been on my priority list to do so. But you know what? With the team returning home tomorrow night, There's a few reasons why you should join them at Ricoh Coliseum.
1. Playoff Hockey
This is the most obvious reason on the list. We've witnessed a whopping three Leafs playoff games in this city over the past decade. Toronto doesn't have any OHL teams anymore, and even if you wanted to travel slightly, the OHL Championships and Memorial Cup are both over. Unless you want to go watch beer leaguers at your local rink or me falling over as I go play shinny, you have no other hockey options.
Besides, this is the best thing short of the Leafs. The quality of play is strong, and the Marlies are arguably the most dominant they've ever been, losing their first playoff game yesterday after opening the post season with 8 straight wins.
2. NHL Potential
Did you know that 35 of 36 players (Dion Phaneuf being the exception) to play for the Leafs this year have played games in the AHL? Even further to this point, 25 of them have played for the Marlies at some point, and 15 of those saw time with them this season.
Only twelve players to play for the Leafs since the beginning of the Salary Cap Era have avoided the AHL completely. When you consider the reasoning one could have for not taking the route (very high picks, European development, old enough to have played in the IHL instead, impressing in their first training camp), that small number shows the importance of the league.
Looking at the team itself, there's quite a few guys that can be picked out as NHL quality. Jerry D'Amigo, Carter Ashton, Peter Holland, Trevor Smith, Frazer McLaren and Jerred Smithson all played regular shifts this year. Spencer Abbott, Drew MacIntyre, and TJ Brennan all deserved a shot with an NHL team this year. Korbinian Holzer will likely end up getting another crack.
Even better is the fact that that list is before you get to the pure prospects that make up the 4th youngest team in the AHL. Guys like Sam Carrick, Greg McKegg, Josh Leivo, Andrew MacWilliam, Petter Granberg, and Stuart Percy only begin to scratch the surface on players who could NHL regulars within the next year or two. There aren't any blue chip prospects, but there's a lot of pieces here that you could see a league up soon.
3. Low Cost
Lets be real, seeing the Marlies is a much more wallet-friendly experience than seeing the Leafs. Tickets along the glass, on game day, and without any sort of promo code, still only set you back $55 each, which is lower than standing room at a Leafs game. The Marlies have done promos throughout the playoffs bringing tickets to as low as $5, and you'll likely be able to get into the building tomorrow for under $20. That's a steal.
On top of that, Games 3 and 4 are $5 beer night. If cheap hockey won't hook you, surely cheap beer will?
4. Good Location
Getting to Ricoh Coliseum isn't very hard. There's a ton of parking in the Exhibition Grounds, there's a GO Station (one stop west from Union) behind the building, and three TTC routes pass through (the 509 Harbourfront, 511 Bathurst, and 29 Dufferin). There are even bicycle friendly routes into downtown and racks near the building. It's not the Air Canada Centre by any means, but it's easy to get there.
5. Good Faith / General Support
While there's an obvious major benefit to the Marlies being in Toronto (easier travel for call ups, shared practice facilities), it's also good for this city to support the club as more than just at attachment.
I know that the internal goal at one point was to try to get the crowds to increase by 10% per year. Obviously, last year saw a bit of an acceleration with the NHL lockout making the team the only hockey option available, and the momentum earned from going to the Calder Cup Finals in 11/12, but for the first time this year, average attendance dipped, from 6681 to 6013. This is despite two games at the Air Canada Centre. Playoff attendance is at 5495. That's an improvement on last year, but nowhere close to the 11/12 mark (6943).
If you want to show that Toronto is more than just a Leafs city, at least go watch your Leafs prospects. The building seats 7800, and.there's no reason that can't be filled.
There's a really good hockey team playing meaningful hockey games in Toronto right now. Lots of guys in this group will play for the Toronto Maple Leafs or elsewhere in the National Hockey League, sooner than later. You've probably already seen a bunch of them in NHL blue and white before. Tickets are cheap, you can get there easily, and it would look really good if Toronto showed that it wasn't just paying attention to a brand, but a sport.
Barring that, at least go to "even up" this awesome gesture the team made for a Season Ticket Holder this week. Or to come up to the Press Box at the top of Section 102 and tell me that I'm stupid and should shut up.
I'm grasping at straws here. But to be honest, if you're not convinced at this point, I don't know what to tell you.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com