HAHAHA Got Yah!
Ok, yes I’ll admit it, wanted to stir the proverbial pot a little today and felt like starting up a debate (not a rumour)…but don’t quote me on this, just throwing it out there as a ‘what if’ scenario.
One could make a fair case that the new arena proposed by the Remmington Group currently being considered by Markham city councilors (that is rumored to have NHL capacity in mind and over 4,400 parking spots) doesn’t manage to land an expansion/existing NHL team in the near future, it may be the perfect place for the Marlies to relocate to.
(more on the proposal here http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/cityhallpolitics/article/1276154–markham-goes-slow-on-nhl-sized-arena-plan)
Yes, yes, I know, I know, the Marlies are right next door to the Leafs and the majority of the players live and train in the same facilities but Ricoh really isn’t the best building (no offense implied, more for what it is also used for e.g. Winter Fair and ice level access for the players isn’t overly safe…I’m still waiting for a player to fall down those stairs!) and the location isn’t all that convenient with limited parking. Even for someone who lives downtown, it is a pain in the a$$ to get their via TTC. I would personally make a lot more games if they played in the old Maple Leaf Gardens than at Ricoh and that streetcar construction is not helping matters.
A new arena in Markham (or elsewhere in the GTA for that matter) could allow for a heck of alot more bums in the seats, an NHL ice surface with the same look and feel, sound system, dressing rooms etc. while being far enough away from the parent club to draw from a different fan base on a regular night. Lets face it, they were only averaging about 2,500 fans a game before the Calder Cup run last year and as soon as the NHL resumes, although the Marlies will have won over some new fans, the vast majority will retreat back to the Air Canada Centre or to their television sets. Dallas Eakins even admitted before last year that the team was bleeding financially. Perhaps this move would also help the team avoid that terrible Ricoh Winter Fair road trip they always go on where they have something silly like 13 games to play on the road and perhaps they could reschedule allowing them to catch a lift with the Leafs every once in awhile…more exposure to the big club and its players couldn’t hurt in the development process etc. etc.
Lets face it, Rogers and Bell bought an 80% share in MLSE for about $2 billion dollars and that in itself makes the Marlies operating costs look like chump change. A relocated Marlies team could potentially move away from being a financial burden and isn’t that in itself worth the risk? really, what do they realistically have to lose? This would also in turn make it a little more difficult for another NHL team to move into the area and would allow MLSE to continue their strangle hold on the Toronto hockey market.
MLSE could also realistically roll the dice and replace the Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum with an expansion ECHL team. The cost is approximately $475,000 for the expansion and between $2.5 – $3.5 million a year to run. There would be a number of cost synergies and the team would have hockey knowledge and team management skills abound to draw from. Although a long shot in terms of reason it would also allow the team to build another farm system in which to sign long term project players to contracts to keep them in the MLSE fold and develop to specific systems etc. Imagine, they could have had Adam Hughesman, Sam Carrick, Tyler Brenner, Charles Sarault (over aging with Sarnia Sting), Denny Urban (Reading Royal’s), Brad Ross, Andrew Crescenzi, Franky Palazzese (see below), Tyler Biggs and some players not currently associated with the organization that could have been great prospects that were not picked in either the 2012 or 2011 draft class e.g. JC Lipon, Max Iafrate, Anton Slepyshev, Michael Houser, Jonathan Parker, Andrej Stastny, Dylan Wruck, Myles Bell to name but a few etc.
(more on JC Lipton & Myles Bell here: http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/jrhockey-buzzing-the-net/j-c-lipon-myles-bell-among-undrafted-19-003836561.html)
So yah, why have one farm team when you could technically have two?, the current Marlies and an ECHL expansion team. The later of which would cost you less than one average NHL player salary per year and allow you to take on some high risk/high reward undrafted young players and college players that wouldn’t apply towards your 50 contract limit. Perhaps you could even structure AHL/ECHL contracts to move minor league players around more efficiently depending on their skill levels, development, conditioning stints, punishment (lol), available roster space and possible playing time. The list goes on and on. Food for thought!