Good morning Toronto Maple Leafs fans!
In case you don't follow me on the socials, it's understandable if you don't, I went on a bit of a rant Friday night regarding this article on the CBC about the FirstOntario Place (Copps Coliseum) renovations.
Former MLSE boss Tim Liewikie said that hockey is the focus of the $300M renovations being done. Not the NHL he clarified, which is obvious as the Leafs would never let anyone into their territory without a few billion dollars coming into their hands - on top of expansion fees.
The arena recently hosted the Ontario Hockey League Hamilton Bulldogs but it is much too big for junior hockey, with a curtained off upper bowl making the place feel so empty and cavernous. The Bulldogs had a great following and they even opened up the top seats for their multiple OHL Championship runs, but if you aren't the London Knights or Kitchener Rangers you shouldn't be in an arena bigger than 5,000 seats.
The renovations were also the reason the Bulldogs are now playing in Brantford for the next three years, and the city is excited to have the team and are working on getting them a permanent home before their "temporary" lease is up.
Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer wasn't thrilled with how the renovation process has gone and many people believe the bridge between the two is burned, after Andlauer operated the AHL Bulldogs before their move to Belleville, as well as the OHL Bulldogs.
So who could play in the newly renovated arena?
An OHL expansion franchise is an option, but once again it would be much too big. In the CBC article first linked Liewikie mentions the AHL as the ideal tenant. Which is true. The arena would be the size as the Hershey Bears, Manitoba Moose, Chicago Wolves, and other successful AHL franchises. The issue is what NHL team would they be affiliated with?
As of right now profits aren't the motivation behind the Toronto Marlies playing at Exhibition Place. It's convenience. They share a practice facility so moving a player up or down is as simple as walking down the hall.
The Buffalo Sabres are also close by but there's no good reason to move the Rochester Americans from their home of the last 65 years.
Detroit Red Wings? Grand Rapids is closer and a great location.
An expansion team? The AHL won't expend unless the NHL does. And if the NHL expands it will most likely be another location that would make Hamilton mad. Houston, Atlanta, Salt Lake City. All of those cities either have minor league teams nearby or in town, or could see a new team established much closer to home.
Houston could revive the San Antonio Rampage, or move up the ECHL Allen Americans. Atlanta could easily upgrade several ECHL teams such as the Atlanta Gladiators, South Carolina Sting Rays, or Savannah Ghost Pirates. Salt Lake City already has the Utah Grizzlies but there is also the Idaho Steelheads near.
A benefit to Hamilton would be cheaper staffing and roster costs as AHL teams in Canada pay in Canadian dollars, however that would most likely be made moot by the extra travel costs incurred for moving players back and forth.
Unless the Maple Leafs want an ECHL team closer than the Newfoundland Growlers, there isn't much demand for another minor league team in Ontario. And then you may have to underbid the CAA Centre in Brampton for the tenancy.
This talk is all sunshine and rainbows to make the cost of the upgrade more palatable to the citizens of Hamilton. Upgrade the arena you built for a non-existent NHL built and hope for the best.
I would focus on being an excellent neutral site host. Aim to be a Hockey Canada hub and host international tournaments like the Women's and Men's World Championships. The World Juniors. Convince the CHL you could be a great Memorial Cup host, once they come to their sense and drop the host team format. Build up the Allan Cup onto a destination event. Invite big Europeans clubs to play exhibition games against local AHL/NHL clubs.
Plan for big events, just don't get anyone's hopes up.
Rant over, here's some news.
It's not good news either! Auston Matthews scored a hat trick but it wasn't enough to beat the Buffalo Sabres... Ugh I hated typing that.
There isn't much news so let's just end this on a high note.
Enjoy your day everyone!