Leafs likely to get new ECHL affiliate based in St. John’s, Newfoundland

The b’ys must be fired up about this one!

According to the Gander Beacon newspaper, the ECHL is set to announce an expansion team affiliated with your very own Toronto Maple Leafs. The move would effectively end Toronto’s partnership with the Orlando Solar Bears, who they’ve been associated with since the 2013-14 season. Toronto, of course, was affiliated with the St. John’s Maple Leafs of the AHL from 1991-2005, while the St. John’s IceCaps were the most recent AHL team to play in the city before moving to Laval as the Rocket for the start of this season.

From today’s Beacon article:

St. John’s businessmen Dean MacDonald and Glenn Stanford, the latter who was the chief operating officer for the St. John’s IceCaps during their six years in the AHL, and prior to that the St. John’s Maple Leafs, went through the process of acquiring an expansion franchise in December.

All criteria were met, with the exception of one item: an arena lease agreement.

St. John’s Edge basketball owners Irwin Simon and Robert Sabbagh, through a clause in their lease agreement with Mile One Centre, had first dibs, if you will, for a hockey team to play at Mile One.

After St. John’s Sports and Entertainment — the board which runs Mile One — ruled Simon and Sabbagh had lost the exclusive rights to bring hockey into the building, the Edge group announced it would be seeking arbitration.

And given that move, SJSE said it would not negotiate with MacDonald and Stanford while the arbitration process was ongoing.

So basically, what you had was one group with a hockey team, but nowhere to play, and another group with an arena, but no hockey team.

Given that scenario, the competitors came together just over a week ago, agreeing to team up with hockey.

Credit where it’s due: What alerted our attention to the news was this tweet from Toronto Sun writer Lance Hornby:

Ultimately, it isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things where your ECHL team plays.  Most of, and potentially all of the players on the ECHL affiliate of the Leafs don’t even necessarily have NHL contracts, as they’re usually just AHL players sent down for a loan. For context, of the Leafs to play this season, just one: Justin Holl has played a single game in the ECHL.

But hey, if the people on the Rock can get excited about something else, we’re all for it!