TORONTO– On Thursday the American Hockey League announced its 2011/12 season schedule including all 76 games that the Toronto Marlies will play.
A 76 game season, rather than 80, is one of the changes the AHL made for this upcoming season and will include 38 home and 38 away games.
Taking a quick glance at the calendar, there are days worth noting for Toronto.
The Marlies will open the season on the road Saturday October 8thagainst last year’s Calder Cup champions, the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa affiliate.)
Their home opener at the Ricoh Coliseum will be Saturday October 15th against a North Division rival, the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado affiliate.) Surprisingly three of the Marlies first four home games and five of their first nine games overall are against the Monsters with the fifth meeting coming on Sunday October 30th.
Toronto will hope to get ahead in the early part of the schedule after coming out the gate just 2-6 in October last year.
Formerly known as the Manitoba Moose, and once a North Division foe, the St John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg affiliate) will make their way to Toronto Sunday December 4th for the first of four meetings at the Ricoh Coliseum. The Marlies will head to St John’s twice during the season, both times playing back to back games with the IceCaps.
Because the Moose and Abbotsford Heat (Calgary affiliate) were shifted out of the North, the Marlies will play 40 games against the four other remaining teams.
The most games against any team will be against the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal affiliate), with an overkill of 12 games. The highlight will be when they meet on Boxing Day at the Air Canada Centre.
Both the Rochester Americans (Buffalo affiliate) and Monsters will play Toronto 10 times while the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit affiliate) will only play them eight times; the least of any team in the North.
The 40 games against the North Division will make or a post-season berth considering last year Toronto went 19-24-1-4 against them.
As the annual visit from the Royal Winter Fair hits town in November, the Marlies longest stretch of time on the road will be a nine game span from Friday October 28th to Friday November 18th. The same trip last year brought the Marlies together with a record of 6-2-2.
Their longest home stand will be 10 games between February 4th and February 26th.
Also worth noting is that the Marlies will not face Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NY Islanders affiliate), Charlotte Checkers (Carolina affiliate), Connecticut Whale (NY Rangers affiliate), Hershey Bears (Washington affiliate), Manchester Monarchs (LA Kings affiliate), Norfolk Admirals (Tampa Bay affiliate), Portland Pirates (Phoenix affiliate), Providence Bruins (Boston affiliate), Springfield Falcons (Columbus affiliate), W/B Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh affiliate) or the Worcester Sharks (San Jose affiliate).
With the majority of these teams being in the Eastern Conference, it would make sense for Toronto not to meet up with them because of travel expenses, however the Checkers are a Mid-West Division team; sharing the same conference as Toronto. This will be the second year in a row that they do not face each other at least once.
Regardless of whom the Marlies face, if they aren’t able to make the play-offs, their season will wrap up Sunday April 15th when they face the Heat in Abbotsford.
Follow me on Twitter @KyleTheReporter