John Tavares and Auston Matthews are coming to St. John’s.
No, the resident Toronto Maple Leafs superstars have not been reassigned to the Leafs’ ECHL affiliate, the Newfoundland Growlers, but the duo will be here next season for Toronto’s training camp.
Coach Mike Babcock, speaking in Niagara Falls where the Leafs opened camp last week, let it slip during a media scrum Sunday that Toronto will be staging its 2019 training camp in St. John’s.
“It’s no different than this,” Babcock said in when asked about the team moving around its training camps, “or when we were in Nova Scotia, or next year when we go to Newfoundland.
“These things are fantastic for the people there. It’s great for our players, too. It’s nice to be appreciated. Obviously, we have a huge fan base.”
The 2018-19 hockey season marks the first year for the Growlers in the ECHL, a team which is directly affiliated with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies and the Maple Leafs.
Back in 2001, Toronto was scheduled to hold camp in St. John’s, where the St. John’s Maple Leafs were Toronto’s AHL farm club, but those plans were scuttled as a result of the 9/11 attacks.
However, the Leafs did hold a Blue-White intrasquad game at Mile One Centre that year, followed by a Montreal Canadiens-Maple Leafs NHL exhibition.
The team will likely stage a Blue-White game next year. No word yet on whether another NHL friendly will be part of the package.