St. John's Maple Leafs

The St. John's Maple Leafs were an ice hockey team in the American Hockey League. They played in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, at Memorial Stadium from 1991 to 2001, and at Mile One Stadium from 2001 to 2005. The team was also colloquially known as the "Baby Leafs" after their parent NHL team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

St. John's Maple Leafs
St johns maple leafs 200x200.png
CitySt. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
LeagueAmerican Hockey League
Operated1991–2005
Home arenaMile One Centre and Memorial Stadium
ColoursBlue and White
Owner(s)Maple Leaf Gardens Limited
MediaCJYQ
AffiliatesToronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
Franchise history
1978–1982New Brunswick Hawks
1982–1986St. Catharines Saints
1986–1991Newmarket Saints
1991–2005St. John's Maple Leafs
2005–presentToronto Marlies
Championships
Regular season titles1 (1993–94)
Division Championships3 (1992–93, 1993–94, 1996–97)
Conference Championships1 (1991–92)
Calder Cups0

While the AHL had a strong presence in Atlantic Canada in the 1980s and 1990s, largely due to the desire of several National Hockey League Canadian franchises to continue to pay players sent down to the minors in Canadian dollars, by 2004, St. John's was the last remaining team in the region prior to its relocation to Ontario.[1]

HistoryEdit

The Leafs' AHL franchise was established in Moncton, New Brunswick, in 1978 as the New Brunswick Hawks, where they played until 1982. The franchise had stops in St. Catharines, Ontario, as the St. Catharines Saints (1982–1986) and Newmarket, Ontario, as the Newmarket Saints (1986–1991).[2] The St. John's Maple Leafs were established in 1991 when the Toronto Maple Leafs moved its AHL farm team to St. John's, becoming the first professional ice hockey team in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The team initially played their home games at Memorial Stadium. The St. John's Maple Leafs played their inaugural game on May 8, 1991, in front of a sold-out crowd, where they defeated the Fredericton Canadiens 5–3.[3] The team made it to the Calder Cup finals in their inaugural season, losing a seven game series to the Adirondack Red Wings four-games-to-three. The Leafs were crowned division champions for the 1992–93 and 1996–97 seasons, and won the regular season title during the 1993–94 AHL season.

In 1993, municipal workers for the City of St. John's voted to strike including the city staff operating the St. John's Memorial Stadium. Prior a game in February, the Maple Leafs team arrived at the stadium on a bus, where they were met by a picket line of strikers who then surrounded the bus and began rocking it with the team and personnel on board. Local police were able to intervene, allowing the bus and Maple Leafs to escape unharmed. Following the incident, the Leafs took an extended road trip and the Toronto Maple Leafs threatened to pull the team out of the province.[4] They remained at Memorial Stadium for ten seasons until moving to the newly built Mile One Centre in downtown St. John's in 2001.

The Maple Leafs were a successful team throughout their time in St. John's and made multiple appearances in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs (missing the playoffs in 2000, 2003, and 2004). On April 29, 2005, the Maple Leafs played their final game, losing 4–0 to the Manitoba Moose in game five of the division semifinal round of the playoffs at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Leafs' final home game was a 6–1 victory in game two of the semifinals.

Their 2005 playoff loss marked the end of 34 consecutive seasons of the AHL's presence in Atlantic Canada, which began in 1971 with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs in Halifax, Nova Scotia. By 2005, the nearest opponent of the St. John's Maple Leafs were the Portland Pirates at a distance of 1,781 km (1,107 mi). In an effort to reduce travel costs, the parent club, ultimately decided to relocate the team to Toronto for the 2005–06 season, where it became known as the Toronto Marlies.[5][6]

Equipment managerEdit

Shannon (Shaq) Coady was the original stick boy for the St. John's Maple Leafs, after winning a local contest at the age of 14.[7] Coady became the team's equipment manager, and he remained in that role until the team's relocation to Toronto. Coady went on to work for the St. John's Fog Devils of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the American Hockey League's St. John's IceCaps. Coady was a well-known figure in NL, due to his work with the province's professional sports teams. Coady died on March 24, 2021, prompting tributes from NHL players and personnel, who had worked with Coady.[8]

MascotEdit

 
Chris Abbott, also known as "Buddy the Puffin," at a St. John's Maple Leafs game.

The St. John's Maple Leafs' team mascot was a puffin named "Buddy." Buddy wore a Maple Leafs home jersey with the number 92 to commemorate the year he was introduced. The puffin design was selected from a fan contest to create a mascot for the Leafs' second season. Buddy remained the mascot until the team's departure in 2005. Buddy was reintroduced as the mascot for the St. John's IceCaps wearing an IceCaps home jersey with his familiar number of 92. Buddy also served as the mascot for the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL.[9] Chris Abbott, the man in the costume, died in St. John's on February 1, 2022.[10]

MediaEdit

St. John's Maple Leafs games were broadcast by VOCM news radio, (and by CJYQ in later seasons) and on local television by Cable Atlantic, which was acquired by Rogers Communications in 2001. Brian Rogers was the long-time voice of the St. John's Maple Leafs,[11] after taking over the role from George MacClaren[12] in 1994.

AffiliatesEdit

CoachesEdit

Notable alumniEdit

Season-by-season resultsEdit

Regular seasonEdit

Season Games Won Lost Tied OTL SOL Points Goals
for
Goals
against
Standing
1991–92 80 39 29 12 90 325 285 2nd, Atlantic
1992–93 80 41 26 13 95 351 308 1st, Atlantic
1993–94 80 45 23 12 102 360 287 1st, Atlantic
1994–95 80 33 37 10 76 263 263 2nd, Atlantic
1995–96 80 31 31 14 4 80 248 274 3rd, Atlantic
1996–97 80 36 28 10 6 88 265 264 1st, Canadian
1997–98 80 25 32 18 5 73 233 254 4th, Atlantic
1998–99 80 34 35 7 4 79 246 270 2nd, Atlantic
1999–00 80 23 45 8 4 58 202 277 5th, Atlantic
2000–01 80 35 35 8 2 80 247 244 3rd, Canadian
2001–02 80 34 27 17 2 87 256 240 3rd, Canadian
2002–03 80 32 40 6 2 72 236 285 3rd, Canadian
2003–04 80 32 36 8 4 76 225 265 7th, North
2004–05 80 46 28 5 1 98 244 232 2nd, North

PlayoffsEdit

Season Prelim 1st round 2nd round 3rd round Finals
1991–92 W, 4–1, CB W, 4–0, MON bye L, 3–4, ADK
1992–93 W, 4–1, MON L, 0–4, CB
1993–94 W, 4–1, CB L, 2–4, MON
1994–95 L, 1–4, FRE
1995–96 L, 1–3, SJNB
1996–97 W, 3–1, BNG L, 3–4, HAM
1997–98 L, 1–3, SJNB
1998–99 L, 2–4, FRE
1999–00 Did not qualify
2000–01 L, 1–3, QUE
2001–02 W, 2–0, PRO W, 3–2, LOW L, 0–4, BRI
2002–03 Did not qualify
2003–04 Did not qualify
2004–05 L, 1–4, MTB

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Baby Leafs to leave St. John's after 14 seasons". CBC. August 9, 2004. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  2. ^ Ballou, Bill (April 4, 2013). "AHL: Bracken Kearns easy Worcester Sharks MVP choice". Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved January 26, 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ McCarthy, Brendan (May 7, 2021). "St. John's entered the AHL three decades ago, in a much different time and a much different league". Saltwire. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  4. ^ Richer, Shawna (October 26, 2004). "'Go Leafs Go' develops a hollow ring". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  5. ^ McCarthy, Brendan (October 15, 2011). "Former St. John's Maple Leafs GM says ego, not logistics, was reason behind moving Baby Buds to Toronto". The Telegram. Archived from the original on January 22, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2012.
  6. ^ CBC News, NL (August 9, 2004). "It's official: Baby Leafs are leaving". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  7. ^ Robin, Short (March 25, 2021). "Former St. John's Maple Leafs, IceCaps equipment manager dies". Saltwire. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  8. ^ CBC News, NL (March 26, 2021). "St. John's hockey community remembers longtime Maple Leafs, IceCaps equipment manager". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  9. ^ O'Leary, Ken (July 7, 2020). "New Buddy Merch". Newfoundland Growlers. Retrieved October 18, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Chris Abbott, beloved by St. John's sports fans as Buddy the Puffin, dead at 51". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. February 1, 2022. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  11. ^ News, Saltwire (April 21, 2017). "Faces of the AHL — Brian Rogers". Saltwire. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  12. ^ Government, NL (July 7, 2012). "Premier expresses sympathy on passing of George MacLaren". Government of NL. Retrieved January 11, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

See alsoEdit