Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 21

Antler Banter is back, and this week's episode has a distinct lack of news as NHL training camps and preseason games are underway. AHL teams won't be doing much in terms of signings or cuts at this point as they wait for players to trickle down to them via NHL cuts, and we'll take a look at a few of those sent to their respective AHL clubs. There has been some AHL news happening behind the scenes so we'll also take a look at that in today's entry. We also have an interesting tidbit of news from the Manitoba Moose that a source has brought forward. Moose fans will want to read this one as we work our way through a condensed version of Antler Banter with the AHL on hold right now! Without further adieu, let's get this party started!

Essensa In The AHL

No, this isn't a Bob Essensa piece, Jets fans. Essensa, a national group purchasing organization (GPO), has entered into a multi-year partnership with the AHL. As per the release, "Essensa will become a sponsor of the AHL Marketing Meeting and AHL Annual Meeting, and will be the Official GPO of the AHL, providing cost-saving opportunities to the league and its participating AHL member clubs."

The crux of this agreement is to help lower costs for individual AHL teams and the AHL as a whole across the board. Personally, I'm all in favour of this deal if it can lower adult beverage costs at MTS Centre, but the overall savings should be significant for the AHL while providing new business opportunities to help grow the bottom lines of teams. "We are excited to begin our partnership with Essensa," said Chris Nikolis, EVP, Marketing & Business Development for the AHL. "Essensa has a proven track record at streamlining the business operations and reducing costs for its members. We are sure our teams will benefit from Essensa's insights and business partnerships."

Essensa is also partnered with the ECHL and Minor League Baseball, so they're bringing some experience to the table in this deal with the AHL. Five AHL clubs - the Rockford IceHogs, San Diego Gulls, Syracuse Crunch, Texas Stars, and Utica Comets - have already signed on with Essensa as GPO members, and there's hope that other clubs will follow.

If this deal brings the costs of some of the AHL's merchandise and concessions down, consider this a major win for fans. If all they do is help to peddle more overpriced merchandise to fans, the AHL needs to have some sort of review process in place immediately. Just because you have more crap to sell doesn't mean more profits.

Marlies Get Deeper

It was expected that with some 63,000 people in Leafs camp that there would be some cuts made by Mike Babcock. It was announced today that the Leafs had done some trimming, sending Casey Bailey, Frederik Gauthier, Brendan Leipsic and Josh Leivo to the Marlies who open camp on September 28. While no one is overly surprised by these moves, the additions to the Marlies' lineup will be welcomed.

Casey Bailey comes to the Marlies by way of the NCAA's Penn State Nittany Lions where he had 80 points in 96 NCAA games. The centerman also suited up for the USHL's Omaha Lancers prior to attending Penn State where he had 27 goals and 33 assists in 60 games. Bailey looks like he'll be a welcomed scoring threat down the middle.

Josh Leivo played with the Marlies over the last two seasons, recording 74 points in 110 AHL games. The former third-round pick appears to be a lock for one of the left-wing roster spots for this season. Leivo is a solid AHL player, and his continued work and growth may push him into an NHL roles sooner than later!

Frederik Gauthier is probably best known for his work as Canada's checking centerman at the two most recent World Junior Championships. Gauthier was a point-per-game player in the QMJHL, but expect the Leafs to continue to ask him to check like a demon as he's shown with Hockey Canada. I expect him to be a Kris Draper-type centerman with the Leafs who can score, when asked, like Yzerman.

Brendan Leipsic was acquired by the Leafs in the deal that sent Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators, and he's showing solid scoring ability in the AHL. In one season with Milwaukee and Toronto, Leipsic recorded 14 goals and 40 assists. Expect him to be a big part of the Marlies' offence this season.

If you're a Moose fan, you can see these players up close as the Marlies are the only Eastern Conference team to find their way to MTS Centre this season! Tickets are on sale now, and there are a pile of Toronto options in the mini-packs!


I was searching other teams' promotional schedules to see why the Moose promotions in comparison are less than stellar. I happened across the promotion schedule for the Milwaukee Admirals, and they're having their annual Salute to Seinfeld night by bringing in Phil Morris, the actor who played lawyer Jackie Chiles in the sitcom! Honestly, why can a team like the Admirals get Phil Morris to come down and sign some autographs as his famous character while the Moose offer up a few special jersey nights? Is it really so hard to have some fun and announce the details of the promotions to make people want to attend those games?

As Morris' character once said, "It’s an infringement on your constitutional rights. It’s outrageous, egregious, preposterous!"

Voice Of The Moose

A wee bird dropped a bit of news on me today in reporting that CBC Sports Desk and occasional Evening News anchor Mitch Peacock will take over as the Manitoba Moose's play-by-play voice for the upcoming season! Mitch has a long history of sports reporting ranging from junior hockey leagues in Alberta and BC to the CFL to Major League Soccer right up to being a rinkside reporter with the Jets. He's also called some events at the 2015 PanAm Games and has worked with CBC at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games!

While I have never heard Mitch call a game live, I do know he's well-versed in sports and certainly has paid his dues over his two decades in the sports journalism field. I think opportunity will go well for him if he can ratchet up the intensity for the Moose with his calls! Congratulations, Mitch, on your new gig!

That's all I have for today for Antler Banter. There will be more next week as teams begin announcing cuts and AHL training camps open. Stay tuned for all of that news as we get closer to the puck dropping on October 9 for another AHL season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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