You don’t need to have played an NHL game to be a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, or a fan in any other sport.
But you do need to be an avid fan.
And in the NHL, you’ll be able to do just that starting next season.
The Maple Leafs are the league’s oldest franchise, having been founded in 1914 and named after the first Canadian maple leaf.
The team was born in Toronto, and its history stretches back to 1901, when the team was renamed the Toronto Marlboros.
The team is now led by the current head coach, Bob Hartley, who was a player for Toronto during the NHL’s first 100 years and has been a Maple Leaf since 1985.
His team has won five Stanley Cups, and Hartley is the first Maple Leaf to hold the head coaching job since Ron Francis was hired by the Edmonton Oilers in 1990.
But while Hartley was an early adopter of the game, he didn’t begin to see it as a lucrative sport until he took over as Leafs coach in 2009.
“It was always my passion to be the Leafs coach, and I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to be part of a team that has been around for 100 years,” he said.
Hartley took the job from Paul MacLean, the longtime Leafs general manager and now head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.
“It was a great opportunity for me to take it up because I’ve been lucky enough over the years to work with a lot of great players,” Hartley said.
“I can definitely say that as a fan I really appreciate the way that the players play, and the way the coaching staff plays, and what the players do in practice.”
The Leafs are hoping to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13.
And while Hart, MacLean and assistant coach Todd Nelson are all in their 20s, they have a chance to make history, too.
The Leafs have been to the Stanley Cup finals only once since 2001, but Hartley believes his team has a chance this season to break the franchise’s all-time winless streak.
“The players are playing really well, and hopefully they can go to the Cup Finals, and they’re going to get that chance,” he told reporters at the team’s practice facility Tuesday.
“I think that would be a really special time for us.”
The Toronto Marlies are a team made up of players who grew up playing the game in the city.
Some of them played professionally, but some played on the minor junior hockey team in Toronto.
But they are the youngest in the league, and their most promising prospects are already in the lineup.
The Marlies play in a new arena that is being developed for a new NHL franchise, and coach Chris Higgins is looking forward to making a long-term commitment.
“We have a really exciting young group of players,” he recently told reporters.
“And we know that we’re building something special.”
The Marlboro League, as the league is known, started in 1967 when Toronto played its first game.
Its name was changed to the Maple Leafs in 1991, and then again in 2000 to the Marlies.
In 2017, the Maple Leaf logo was adopted by the Toronto Raptors, who were founded in 1991 and now play in the same building as the Marlborough Bombers.
And the Leafs have the most fan-friendly team name in the League, with the team being named for the city of Toronto, which has a large number of Maple Leafs fans.
“Our name is very much about that, and our passion for the game is very clear,” Hart said.
“So it’s important to us that we have a team name that’s not just something that comes from us or our community.”
The league’s new arena, in the basement of the BMO Centre, is expected to be ready for the start of the season, and it will likely feature a new scoreboard and a new roof.
The Maple Leafs’ first game will be on March 19 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The NHL will also be bringing back the Leafs’ old anthem, which was used for most of the franchise before the league decided to take a different approach.