02/23/2024

BUF:

2

CBJ:

1

Final

WPG:

3

CHI:

2

Final

MIN:

4

EDM:

2

Final

02/24/2024

STL:

1

DET:

6

Final

MTL:

3

NJD:

4

Final

TBL:

4

NYI:

2

Final

NYR:

2

PHI:

1

Final

WSH:

2

FLA:

3

Final

TOR:

4

COL:

3

Final

VGK:

3

OTT:

4

Final

BOS:

2

VAN:

3

Final

DAL:

2

CAR:

1

Final

CGY:

6

EDM:

3

Final

MIN:

5

SEA:

2

Final

NSH:

4

SJS:

2

Final

ANA:

2

LAK:

3

Final

02/25/2024

TBL:

4

NJD:

1

Final

PHI:

6

PIT:

7

Final

CAR:

2

BUF:

3

Final

NYR:

2

CBJ:

4

Final

DET:

3

CHI:

2

Final

ARI:

3

WPG:

4

Final

NSH:

4

ANA:

2

Final

02/26/2024

OTT:

0

WSH:

0

07:00 ET

NYI:

0

DAL:

0

08:00 ET

LAK:

0

EDM:

0

09:30 ET

BOS:

0

SEA:

0

10:00 ET

02/27/2024

WSH:

0

DET:

0

07:00 ET

BUF:

0

FLA:

0

07:00 ET

ARI:

0

MTL:

0

07:00 ET

TBL:

0

PHI:

0

07:00 ET

VGK:

0

TOR:

0

07:00 ET

CAR:

0

MIN:

0

08:00 ET

OTT:

0

NSH:

0

08:00 ET

STL:

0

WPG:

0

08:00 ET

LAK:

0

CGY:

0

09:00 ET

DAL:

0

COL:

0

09:30 ET

PIT:

0

VAN:

0

10:00 ET

NJD:

0

SJS:

0

10:30 ET

02/28/2024

CBJ:

0

NYR:

0

07:00 ET

STL:

0

EDM:

0

08:30 ET

02/29/2024

VGK:

0

BOS:

0

07:00 ET

CAR:

0

CBJ:

0

07:00 ET

NYI:

0

DET:

0

07:00 ET

MTL:

0

FLA:

0

07:00 ET

BUF:

0

TBL:

0

07:00 ET

ARI:

0

TOR:

0

07:00 ET

WPG:

0

DAL:

0

08:00 ET

MIN:

0

NSH:

0

08:00 ET

COL:

0

CHI:

0

09:00 ET

PIT:

0

SEA:

0

10:00 ET

LAK:

0

VAN:

0

10:00 ET

ANA:

0

SJS:

0

10:30 ET

ECHL: History Of The Newfoundland Growlers

It became clear, almost immediately, that the Newfoundland Growlers weren’t going to be your typical inaugural ECHL franchise. With a healthy balance of local hockey legends like Zach O’Brien, James Melindy, and Marcus Power, who took a chance at playing at home, the team was sure to attract hockey fans of all ages. Toss in former NHLers Adam Pardy and Ryane Clowe  (coach), and you had a well-rounded home-grown contingent. 

Experienced players from away, like Brady Ferguson and Giorgio Estephan, ensured the Growlers team was solid. The formula worked, and on June 4, 2019, the Newfoundland Growlers, in their inaugural season, became the province of Newfoundland’s first professional hockey team to win a championship, defeating the Toledo Walleye in the ECHL’s best-of-seven final series. Clowe left early in the season, and John Snowden took over, guiding the team to that ECHL championship in his first head coaching job. It was quite a year for Snowdon, who told reporters at the time that on the night the Growlers defeated the Brampton Beast in the first round of the playoffs, his wife had given birth to their first daughter, Rowan. 

Of course, the history of the Growlers franchise goes back before they ever stepped on the ice. The goal, when searching for a team name and a mascot, was to create something iconic that could be a source of pride for hockey fans and players alike. The primary logo is a Newfoundland dog – known for their size, strength, intelligence, and loyalty. The dog is said to represent the pride and resilience of the province of Newfoundland.

But the image on the Growler’s jerseys isn’t just any Newfoundland dog. Sable Chief, a Newfoundland dog that served as the mascot of The Royal Newfoundland Regiment during WWI, is who the image is styled after. Back in their first season, the Growlers made up mostly of rookies, had an average player age of 24, younger than all of their playoff opponents. They started their season with an exhibition game tour across their home province of Newfoundland and ended it in front of a sold-out crowd of nearly 7,000 cheering fans. “The Mile One Centre was on absolute wheels,” said forward Todd Skirving of the playoff run. “It was the most crazy thing I’ve ever seen. The excitement in the building during that Game 6 and throughout the playoffs, really, is something that I will never forget. The city went crazy that night,” he said.

The Growlers and the fans bonded over that shared experience of a home-ice win. Team president Glenn Stanford, also a Newfoundland native, shared at the time that he knew the team had “something special.” Newfoundland Growlers, an affiliate of the Maple Leafs organization, had a good reputation, and that helped make Newfoundland a destination many players wanted to play in and test out. 

Dean MacDonald is the man behind Deacon Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Newfoundland Growlers – affiliates of the Toronto Maple Leafs. They also own the Trois Rivières Lions and the Iowa Heartlanders.  When last we spoke, MacDonald had been reflecting on how COVID restrictions changed the game for everyone and how tough things had become. But the fans stayed true, he said with pride.   “We’re really pleased with fan support, and without them, things would be quite different,” he said. Sometimes, especially speaking about the success of the Growlers and the fact they were Kelly Cup winners in their first franchise year and that the team has made it to the playoffs each season since he has to remind himself “that it’s real.” 

“I don’t know how we ended up here. I honestly don’t. The irony is that we were approached to bring a team here, and we did it. It’s a credit to Glenn (Stanford – the Governor and Chief Operating Officer of the Newfoundland Growlers) and the team. A few things are important. We run a tight ship, and we’re active in the community. That’s kudos to the lads on the team who have the passion. As for me? It’s just fun. I can’t describe it any other way. The playoff run we had in the first year, and to win it was like magic, and that’s just one of the greatest moments of all time.” 

MacDonald and the Growlers organization have earned much praise in the league. While many are owed credit, as far as the head of the organization is concerned, the parent team gets the real credit. “I think it starts with the Leafs … they are very determined to have a good team, and all the players feel like they’re in the Leafs system. Like they have a chance. There’s a lot of time and effort put into each player with individual coaching, so I think players feel that they’re really wanted, and I think it’s fair to say there are teams in the league where that isn’t the case.” 

From medical care to good grub, the management team are committed to the players and their wellbeing both mentally and physically, he shared. Looking back over more than 30 years of professional hockey in the province of Newfoundland, McDonald again says the credit goes to one man: Glenn Stanford. “At the end of the day, it’s all about Glenn. We don’t have a team without Glenn. It was the Leafs that approached Glenn about possibly playing here in St. John’s. It was Montreal who approached Glenn about Trois Rivières, and it was the city of Coralville that approached Glenn about the Heartlanders.”

Of course, the coaching staff, the players themselves, and the fans have so much to do with the fact that the Growers keep up with the best of the best in the ECHL. 

The Growlers lost this season and last season to the same team in the conference finals – the Florida Everblades – but they still had a great season. With top league stat earners like O’Brien and Pavel Gogolev, the franchise certainly had a chance to go all the way.

What’s to come this season? Well, no coach has been names and besides Skirving, who has played with the team since the beginning, no players have been announced. It’s all good, Skirving says. “As we say, having the chance to play hockey like this at this level doesn’t last forever, and it is a fantasy world. I acknowledge that, and I appreciate that. So I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can here and now, and I hope the fans do as well.”

The 5th season of Growlers hockey begins October 20th at Mary Brown’s Centre when Newfoundland host the Reading Royals.

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