Move Rocks ticket sales

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

The St. John's Maple Leafs have been as much a part of Newfoundland culture as screech and fishing for the past 13 years.

But the announcement last month that the Baby Leafs would pack up and move to Toronto after the 2004-05 season understandably has dampened the spirits of hockey fans on the Rock.

Season-ticket sales are down about 20% for home games at the swank Mile One Stadium, according to St. John's vice-president Glenn Stanford.

"I don't think there is disdain or anger among people here," Stanford said yesterday from the Rock. "But certainly people are disappointed that this will be the final season.

"There is no disguising the fact some people did not renew their tickets because of the news that came out in August. But this is a team that has not made the playoffs in three of the past five seasons, so that must also be taken into account.

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"People here have shown that if this team starts winning, they will come out."

The team's corporate sponsorship remains strong. Most of the advertisers originally were signed to five-year deals.

With the Baby Leafs set to occupy the Ricoh Centre in 2005-06, the team is attempting to make its final run in Newfoundland a memorable one.

"We hope to have former coaches and players come out here for games as we celebrate the tradition the franchise has enjoyed here," Stanford said.

Among those coaches who have paced behind the Baby Leafs bench over the years are the Vancouver Canucks' Marc Crawford and the Colorado Avalanche's Joel Quenneville.

Stanford is working with the board of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd. to find a replacement tenant for Mile One Stadium. One of the options is a possible franchise in the Quebec junior league.


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