Maurice has done it before

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Paul Maurice is in a much different hockey market than that of Raleigh, N.C.

But in a sense, he never really left the area known as Tobacco Road.

Fired as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes in December 2003, Maurice now will play an integral role in convincing hockey fans in Toronto it's worth their while to head down to Ricoh Coliseum and support the fledgling Toronto Marlies.

It's not unlike the situation facing Maurice and the Hurricanes when they first put down roots in North Carolina in 1997.

MARLIES COACH

"I had some experience with it in Carolina, doing the interviews, doing the things to get the people out and explain the product to them," Maurice, hired late last month by the Maple Leafs to coach the Marlies, said. "That's part of the American (Hockey) League game that is probably not as much a part of the NHL game (in Toronto). Our players are going to have to do some things in the community to get the families out and to identify with the younger hockey players.

"I also know it is a little more difficult to get an (NHL) ticket here than it was in the last city I coached in, so there are a lot of really good hockey fans out there with three kids like I have who want to enjoy a weekend and take their kids to a game. We are a great alternative."

Maurice, guiding a crew of Leafs prospects at Lakeshore Lions Arena, yesterday was back on the ice for the first time with professional players since the 'Canes let him go on Dec. 15, 2003.

"I was nervous with just the excitement of running a practice," Maurice said. "I may have sweated a little harder than a few of the guys out there, but we will fix that."


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