Following Leafs coach Randy Carlyle’s pre-game media availability, American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced that the Toronto Marlies will face SHL club Farjestad BK in an international exhibition game on February 15th, 2014.
The game is an extension of Farjestad’s trip across the pond to face the league’s top talent in the AHL All Star Classic in St. Johns, which happens a few days prior on February 11th and 12th.
“This game will serve as a great experience for all of our players, especially our young prospects who have recently turned pro,” said Dave Poulin. “We’re thrilled to host a game of this magnitude and look forward to providing an exciting atmosphere and a competitive game for our fans at Ricoh Coliseum.”
Steve Spott also had good things to say about the concept. "I think it’s real important. For everybody involved, to have the experience to play against an international hockey club is going to be great. In the American Hockey League, we get to see a wide range of players, but to see a European team come in and pay a European system is going to be great for our players and their development, and hope that their players will move on to the National Hockey League and maybe the Olympic Games one day. I think for all involved it’s a win-win situation."
On the other end, Farjestads CEO Hakan Loob saw Toronto as a great opponent for their team, which is the first SHL team to fly across to play a game against a North American team. “To come and play the Marlies in Toronto will be great,” said Loob. “Toronto has been the ‘hockey town’ of the world for most Swedes since Börje Salming’s days in the early 70’s. We are very excited to represent the SHL in the All-Star Classic and then against one of the AHL’s top teams.”
Farjestads is arguably the biggest powerhouse in Swedish Hockey History, with nine championships (four in the past eleven years) and nineteen finals appearances since 1932. Presently, they’re in ninth place out of twelve teams with a 9-10-0-3 record.
The Leafs have brought over two of their players in the past several years, in Jonas Gustavsson and Rickard Wallin. While neither lived up to expectations with the club, Gustavsson is 3-0-1 this year (2.48 GAA, 0.929 SV%) with Detroit, and Wallin is back with Farjestads as their captain, likely to play in this game.
The concept of a international exhibition game in the middle of the sesaon isn’t a new concept to MLSE, either. While the Leafs and Raptors haven’t done anything of the sort, Toronto FC has a habit of scheduling mid-season friendlies due to the differences between the MLS’ schedule and the rest of the world’s. Most recently, they faced Serie A squad AS Roma at BMO Field.
I’m personally excited for this matchup. It gives the Marlies and the AHL a bit of a litmus test compared to international talent, and you can expect both teams to be playing to win, in hopes of impressing those watching from the other side. As it so happens, Farjestads is my favourite Swedish team (great jerseys, and I started watching during the Gustavsson hype extravaganza), so that’s a plus on my end. My only concern is that the Marlies play the following afternoon as well, so I wonder what kind of roster we’ll see. I assume it will depend on where they are in the standings at the time.
Tickets go on sale to season ticket holders today at 2PM, and are available to the general public on Thursday morning. Prices will be the same as standard regular season Marlies games.