ECHL: Could Bloomington Be a Perfect Fit for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs recently lost the Newfoundland Growlers this season as the team ended up folding with less than two weeks to go, and all the players that were on AHL deals were sent up to the Marlies; all their ECHL contracted players became unrestricted free agents. The Maple Leafs now had to figure out an ECHL affiliate. Enter the Bloomington Bison…

The Bloomington Bison are expected to name their head coach and NHL affiliate on Thursday during a press conference at Grossinger Motors Arena, and one NHL team that would make a lot of sense for Bloomington is the Toronto Maple Leafs. One of the biggest reasons is that the Maple Leafs have always been a team that has had a very deep prospect pool and were relying on the Newfoundland Growlers to try and attempt to keep a lot of their players in North America. When the Growlers were a team in the ECHL, they were known for having a roster filled with prospects and being with Toronto, the Bison would already have a part of their roster figured out and would just have to figure out a few players to sign to ECHL contracts to round out their roster.

Related Post: ECHL: NHL Teams Without An ECHL Affiliate

Another big factor here is location. The location may not be picture-perfect, and there may be some options geographically with teams like the St. Louis Blues, who are one of five NHL teams without an ECHL affiliate at the moment, but neither of those teams has as deep of a prospect pool as the Maple Leafs do. Bloomington is located just two hours from Chicago O’Hare, which provides non-stop flights to Toronto. We’ve seen in the past how frequently players would go up and down from the Marlies when their ECHL team was in Newfoundland, and now with travel being easier, I would expect that to either stay the same or increase moving forward.

Coming out of the gate with an affiliate like Toronto automatically makes the Bison a team that can enter the ECHL and compete for a Kelly Cup Playoff berth in their inaugural season. This would be huge, given what has happened to the Savannah Ghost Pirates in their first two seasons in the league, as they have been at the bottom of the South Division Standings. There’s nothing the league and the Maple Leafs would like more than having an expansion team succeed in their first season in the league, and it could be the start of a long-term relationship between Bloomington and Toronto. It also helps put a face to the Bison because the Maple Leafs are an original six team, and with fans knowing the history of the Leafs, it may help put some fans in seats as well as allow people that maybe aren’t as familiar with the ECHL team a chance to connect with the team.

We’ll find out on Thursday if this idea becomes a reality for the Bloomington Bison and Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Armand Klisivitch

Inside The Rink ECHL Manager | Senior Editor Credentialed Reporter for the Adirondack Thunder & Worcester Railers.

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