-- As far back as most hockey fans can remember, watching the Maple Leafs in person has been an opportunity few seldom turn down.
The sheer demand to see the big-league Maple Leafs is so great that availability has been limited and when tickets do come up they can be pricey. Whether it be with friends or family, sometimes the NHL can simply be too much for the average Joe's pocketbook to handle.
So with the Maple Leafs AHL squad moving into Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum next fall, hockey enthusiasts in the region have a new team to throw their support behind. Not to mention, there's another option for their entertainment dollar and the added bonus of stretching it further than it will go in any professional league, park, stadium or arena.
"We're excited about bringing AHL Leafs hockey to Toronto," said Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. (MLSEL) "We know that our fans are looking forward to having another Leafs team in town and we're committed to providing them with a great experience at affordable prices each time they step into the arena."
The Leafs announced pricing for AHL season seats this week starting at $15 per game and nearly 55 per cent of season seats priced at $20 or less. The team also introduced a youth season seat for children 12 years and under priced at $15 per game.
When compared with other family entertainment options in the arena it's noted that an AHL game can be just as or more affordable than Toronto Rock Games, Medieval Times, Ontario Place, the Toronto Zoo and the Science Centre.
"We've been very conscious of ensuring that hockey fans in Toronto will have an exciting and affordable alternative that brings them closer to the game action and offers a unique product from what you see on NHL ice, said Chris Gibbs, director of AHL Business Operations. "We're still exploring creative options to add to fans' dollar value, but the season seat pricing and youth pricing already give fans more value than they'll find anywhere else in Toronto's professional sports scene."
In Toronto, support for the Blue and White is a religion. The Maple Leafs sit on a pedestal above all in the sports scene, so when the option of bringing the team's farm club to Hogtown came about, it really was a no-brainer.
The rationale behind the move was quite simple. Here players can enjoy more of the benefits Leafs training facilities, plus general manager John Ferguson can easily monitor player progress, travel time is greatly reduced and most importantly, it brings them closer to the most passionate hockey fans in the world.
That could be who the real winners are in this move.
Fans in this market have had affordable alternatives to NHL hockey in the past, but the storied history and emotional connection to the Toronto Maple Leafs makes this one something special.