I confess that I fell into becoming a Toronto Marlies fan and then ultimately following them so closely.
I cannot remember which year I attended my first game but the turning point for me was attending one of the “Meet me at the Marlies” events hosted by Laura Hickey with some input from the indomitable Clayton Hansler who was also running the Marlies twitter account at the time.
I felt so welcomed into the “Marlies family” despite essentially being this stranger from 3500 miles away with the “weird accent.” I’m sure a few of those who attended that day remember Joey Crabb chirping me by saying “what do Brits know about hockey anyhow!” Getting to meet a player in that light-hearted atmosphere just added to occasion and Crabb seemed to enjoy mingling with the fans, and in no way appeared to be a chore to him.
I was far from the knowledgeable hockey fan I like to think I am now. I knew next to nothing about the rules and regulations of the AHL, let alone the process the players have to take in the minors. The more I learnt, the more I appreciated the league and grew an attachment to the Marlies.
The welcoming nature of the fans, the cheap cost of attending games and getting to watch exciting young players before they hit the big time were all big draws. It was always more than just about the hockey, though getting “my fix” of the game live is something I crave as most of you know.
Perhaps the biggest draw was getting to meet new people and make new friends through social media and then in person when I made my pilgrimage to Toronto.
Especially so when I started writing about the baby buds on my own blog, before being asked to contribute my Marlies musings to the Leafs website “We Want A Cup.”
As the reach of my writing grew, I was able to interact with many more fans and some great people, with some I now consider to be good friends. I appreciate the goodwill that heads in my direction for my passion, staying up until the stupid hours and my views on the team.
In all honesty though, it’s a complete and utter pleasure. I get a real kick out of following this team, as much as I do the Leafs but it’s different, more intimate somehow. I love conversing with everyone about the team and sharing the high’s of some great seasons and some lows of course.
The madness of flying over for a few days to attend the home games of the Calder Cup Finals will live with me forever. The class the fans showed to one of the great AHL teams, Norfolk Admirals, in winning game four and the championship will also live long in the memory.
I was truly touched when some of you fine Marlies people collaborated to send me a “Marlies care package” in time for Christmas. Words on the internet can’t really can’t go any way to conveying how much that gesture means to me, but here goes.
I wanted to say thank you in a more expansive way than just through a tweet or a DM.
So thank you for being so inclusive and such great fans.
Thank you for your friendship and for making the Marlies a fun team to follow through the medium of social media and I can’t wait to meet some of you again and some for the very first time.
Thank you so much for the kind gifts which I shall treasure and add to my small but growing collection.
I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and send love from my family to yours.
Your (slightly crazy) friend across the ocean,