Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Well today is a busy day for news about sports coming to Toronto.

The Toronto Maple Leafs held a press conference today to announce the name of its new farm team in Toronto. It will be called the Toronto Marlboros. The team is adopting the name of the old junior hockey franchise that played for many years in the OHL at Maple Leaf Gardens. And they had pretty much the same blue-and-white uniforms the Leafs had. I don't know why they want to name them after the old OHL team, because this is the AHL now. When I think Marlboros I think (a) junior hockey, or (b) a brand of cigarettes.

The other thing that fans are complaining about is that Marlboros sounds old and tired. This is the video-game era after all. Why not pick a young, hip name? In Chicago they called that AHL team the Wolves, and the AHL team in Philly is called the Phantoms. But the Leafs want to go with tradition. Besides, the AHL has been in Toronto before and they already tried going young and hip by adopting the name Roadrunners before, and you see what happened with them. And that happened to be a pretty decent team.

They also apparently want to go with sky high ticket prices for games at the Ricoh Coliseum, much higher than other AHL cities but lower than for NHL games. The average ticket price is going to be 24 bucks apparently. So it looks as if the fans are going to get hosed, but a lot of fans are going to show up because they can't live without their crummy Toronto Maple Leafs, 38 years and counting without a Stanley Cup. But then again, maybe not. After all the AHL is not the NHL and this is supposed to be an NHL town, and the only hockey club in this city that has been able to make it for any length of time is the Leafs. And Ricoh Coliseum is a great, cozy arena, but it is no Air Canada Centre.

Maybe they are planning to put blue ice in, like they did this weekend in Buffalo when the Rochester Americans were in there playing. Man, that would be ridiculous though.


The other big story is a report that NASCAR is looking at possibly putting a race into either Toronto or Montreal pretty soon. They're going to come up to Canada to check out possible places to hold races, and I say this would be fabulous. Canada is loaded with racing fans ( more now then ever with the NHL locked out ), and NASCAR is really popular up here.

You laugh, but Canada is full of people who are good ol' boys who love country music. They'd drive from miles away in their pickup trucks and Winnebagos to see a NASCAR race and try and get autographs from Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Heck I'd even go, even though my preference is really Indycars and Formula 1. But you see the audience for Indy races and F1 in Canada: it's huge. This is a no-brain decision by NASCAR to come to Canada, all they need to do is pick the right track. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is available and so is MOSPORT, but MOSPORT could use some additional seats. Personally, they should hold the race in Ontario if they possibly could, because I think Ontario is full of NASCAR-type people in my opinion. Full of rural folks who'd drive miles to see a race. Montreal just has too much of a big-city atmosphere and NASCAR prides itself on its rural roots. That's why it might fit right in at MOSPORT if they can maybe renovate the place and add some seats.

Doesn't matter where they hold it, NASCAR would pack the joint. NASCAR races are really exciting, look at the race this weekend when Carl Edwards nipped Jimmie Johnson at the line in Atlanta. That was darn good racing and there's an audience for that here in Canada that's going untapped. If NASCAR came up here they'd absolutely strike it rich.


Been watching the TV news coverage and it sure looks as if they are going to be referring to this new AHL squad not as the "Marlboros" but the "Marlies". Maybe this is an attempt to avoid any confusion or any association with cigarettes. I was going to suggest maybe they hire some cowboy with a cigarette dangling from his mouth as a mascot or something.

More and more I wonder whether calling them the "Marlies" is a good idea. It's not a very hip name to begin with, and the tradition behind the name is kind of misplaced: the Marlies were really a junior team, when the fact is that this new Marlies team is supposed to be in the AHL, a PROFESSIONAL league full of veteran players and developing talent. It makes this new team sound like something really bush league. At least when the Roadrunners were here they acted like they were a big time, big league entity, with the requisite goofy bird mascot, even though it was the AHL. Calling these guys the "Marlies" makes them seem smalltime.

But who knows, maybe it'll look like a brilliant move when we actually see them play. They will be playing in the cozy Ricoh Coliseum which has a nice aged feel, like one of the old barns from the Original Six era. Put the "Marlies" in there and it'll seem like they've been playing in that old building forever. Maybe that's the whole idea behind this.

One thing won't change, though. Because they'll be wearing the blue and white and playing in Toronto colors, and wearing a maple leaf jersey that says "Marlies" on it, this team will still be known as the "Baby Leafs". That nickname's bound to stick around.

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