On Monday, we brought you up to date on the state of the Maple Leafs attempt to move their ECHL affiliate to an expansion team in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The Telegram is now reporting that a compromise deal between the group with the team and the group with the rights to the arena has been worked out. The Maple Leafs will still be involved, and will have a say over some wide-ranging aspects of hockey operations.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, with whom the newly-minted St. John’s team will have a partnership, will have a say in some matters, particularly in the naming of a coach and some player personnel.
That’s the usual state of affairs in a lot of ECHL clubs that are affiliated with NHL teams. Drake Berehowsky is currently the coach of the Orlando Solar bears, but the rest of the team’s operation, as far as we know, is up to Orlando management.
It appears things may be different with this new team:
The Leafs plan to use St. John’s as an entry point into their system, not only for players but for coaches and support staff (therapists, equipment managers).
The final details need to be worked out quickly in order for the ECHL to announce their schedule. The ECHL has divisions, just like the NHL and AHL, and it appears that the St. John’s team will slot in along with the newly launched Maine Mariners (currently unaffiliated) in the North division.
The rest of the North Division is made up of the Manchester Monarchs (LA Kings), Adirondack Thunder (New Jersey Devils), Reading Royals (Philadelphia Flyers), Wheeling Nailers (Pittsburgh Penguins), Worcester Railers (New York Islanders), and the Brampton Beast (Montréal Canadiens).
Given the way the ECHL sets up its schedules, we should expect a lot of games against the new team in Portland, the Mariners, since they are closest. As that team, owned by Comcast, the owner of the Flyers, and the team in St. John’s are built side-by-side as rivals, they may change the way the ECHL does business.
The Telegram article speculates that the new team will have a new coach with some local cachet, or that the Leafs may seek to stock the team with players of local appeal. I think the Leafs will look for staff and players in a way similar to what the new man in charge of the Mariners said he looks for: players just out of college or junior hockey who are hungry to keep playing, to get a chance to make their mark and maybe move up the ladder. I’ll have more on that tomorrow, but for now, it looks like the Leafs are going back to the Rock.