February 7, 2006
TORONTO (CP) -- The first step in selling the American Hockey League to fans in Canada's largest city was having a team move to Toronto.
The next one will be hosting one of the league's biggest events.
AHL president Dave Andrews announced Tuesday night that the 2007 all-star game would be hosted by the Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum.
"We're really excited about this,'' Andrews said. "It's a great chance to showcase our league here in this city.''
The Marlies moved to Toronto from St. John's, N.L., before the season and have enjoyed moderate success.
The AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs has averaged 4,597 fans in the 9,500-seat arena this year.
"Our entire organization is excited about the opportunity to host such a high-profile hockey event,'' said Bob Hunter, executive vice-president and general manager of Air Canada Centre. "It will bring exposure to both our new hockey team (and) our great venue in Ricoh Coliseum.''
Andrews said the decision to bring the game to Toronto was "unanimous'' when voted on by the league's board of governors at the 2006 all-star game in Winnipeg last week.
Last week's game set an all-star game attendance record when 15,015 fans turned out at the MTS Centre.
Despite that, Andrews said the league didn't really consider holding next year's game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, which holds 18,189.
"We had a big turnout in Winnipeg but the point of this event is to showcase the Ricoh Coliseum to hockey fans in this city and the rest of Ontario,'' said Andrews. "I think we'll sell out that beautiful building both nights (for the skills competition and game).''
Ricoh Coliseum is one of North America's oldest sporting venues, having been built in 1922. It was completely renovated in 2003 when the AHL's Toronto Roadrunners moved to the city.
The Roadrunners moved to Edmonton after just one season and the Marlies took their place at Ricoh last September.
Hunter said he's glad Toronto "finally has a chance to host this event.''
According to the AHL, 92 per cent of players who have played in the league's all-star game since 1995 have gone on to play in the NHL.