But this isn’t your ordinary franchise transfer. The Toronto Roadrunners were drawing decently at Ricoh Coliseum, why are they leaving with good attendence numbers? Perhaps there’s a little more to this story than what’s being printed in all the newspapers.
In 1998 the owner of the IHL’s frozen Phoenix Roadrunners all but got a deal to move his team to Toronto to play in the Raptor-owned, still under construction, Air Canada Centre. When the Raptors were purchased by the Maple Leafs a month later, the Roadrunners dreams of suiting up in the Big Smoke seemed to be crushed.
They tried to buy Maple Leaf Gardens to use, but the Leafs refused to sell to a so-called ‘rival’.
Five years later and the IHL long gone, they are awarded an AHL franchise as the Oilers affiliate, they renovate the century old Exhibition Coliseum, and suit up in time for November.
Attendence is decent through the first month, and what do you know… the Toronto Maple Leafs are expressing interest in owning an AHL team to play at this newly renovated arena, too bad there’s already another affliated team there!
Now throughout the 2003-04 season the ‘Runners brought in huge crowds all against the same opponent… the St. John’s Maple Leafs, at these games the crowd was overwhelmingly pro-St. John’s and the team even promoted the fact that “It’s Okay to Love Two Teams” sporting the Toronto AHL and St. John’s AHL logos.
This off-season the owners of the Roadrunners, and the owners of the Ricoh Coliseum got into a dispute which led to the ‘Runners having no home for the upcoming season.
Why did the owners of the Coliseum suddenly not want their main tenant in their brand-spanking new building?
Coincidentally at the same time the Toronto Maple Leafs have been complaining about having the only AHL team in Atlantic Canada, citing travel costs as being too high… and with their agreement expiring at the end of the 2004-05 season they may have to leave the beautiful ocean town and abondon that amazing new arena, Mile One Stadium… but to where?!
Too bad the Roadrunners are still in Toronto.
Oh wait, we forgot the Ricoh Coliseum owner is not interested in the Roadrunners… I wonder why?
Did the Leafs pressure the Ricoh Coliseum to oust the Toronto Roadrunners? Well, I’m not going to suggest anything to that nature… but I do suspect a lot of Phoenix Coyotes to appear on the Leafs roster next season, if you get my drift?
So in conclusion, the Toronto Roadrunners will be known as the Edmonton Roadrunners in 2004-05, the Ricoh Coliseum will be dark… that is until the St. John’s Maple Leafs move there in October 2005.