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Posted 2017 February 10
To the left you see two logos: the logo for the Toronto Marlboros Hockey Club, and the logo for the Toronto Marlies hockey team. You may note that the two look extremely similar. And that the names are really similar. Are you confused? No? Let me see if I can fix that.
I could probably spend the next several paragraphs explaining how this happened, but it's not that interesting unless you're just fascinated by sports history, and I'm guessing most of you are here to laugh at logos, not learn sports history. So I'll try to keep it short (it'll look like I failed, but trust me, I could go on about this a lot longer if so inclined).
Back in the 1880s, a Toronto businessman started an athletic club where people could play sports like football, baseball, lacrosse, and so forth. For some reason he named it the "Toronto Marlborough Athletic Club" after the Duke of Marlborough, and for the club's logo he drew the Duke of Marlborough's crown (I didn't even know dukes had crowns until I read this) with the letters "AC" in front for "Athletic Club". (For anyone wondering what this looked like, it looked like the logos you see to the left without the maple leaf in the background). Around the turn of the 20th Century the club started some hockey teams, and in the 1930s the club was bought by Conn Smythe, who owned the Toronto Maple Leafs. At this point the athletic club added a maple leaf background to its logo. Over time its major junior hockey team became particularly prominent, to the point that all of its other teams faded away except for some hockey teams for even younger players, with the point of those teams being to serve as a feeder program for the major junior team. Somewhere along the way the Maple Leafs sold the Athletic Club (which now called itself the Toronto Marlboro Hockey Club since hockey was the only sport it still had teams for*), and finally in 1989 the major junior team left Toronto (it's now the Guelph Storm) while the rest of the organization remained in Toronto under the same name and logo. So that's where that logo comes from.
Then about a decade ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs moved their AHL team from the Maritimes to Toronto. They decided to name the team after the old Toronto Marlboro junior hockey team, but since that organization still existed they called the team the Marlies instead. For the first decade or so their logo had nothing to do with the Marlboros logo, but this year when the Maple Leafs rebranded themselves they also rebranded the Marlies, and in the process decided to bring the crown back. How, precisely, they get away with that when the Marlboros are already using it is beyond me, but somehow they managed. As a result, the two teams' logos are almost identical, and their names bear an obvious similarity as well. And, of course, both teams have logos that aren't that different from the Maple Leafs logo, and their names even start with the same first two letters.
Incidentally, the Marlies logo is now identical to the new Maple Leafs logo in many ways. The reason for all this rebranding, you see, is that this is the Maple Leafs' 100th year. So they did a rebranding to celebrate that, and stuffed the logo full of symbolism. The leaf has thirty-one points to recognize the fact that the team moved into the iconic Maple Leafs Gardens in 1931. The symbolism here would be more impressive if the team hadn't left the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens in 1999, but oh well. The leaf also has seventeen veins to recognize the team's debut in 1917, with thirteen of those veins coming above the name to recognize the thirteen Stanley Cups the team has won in its history.
Let me pause here to state that I have a problem with that last bit. The way they've integrated the number of Stanley Cups the team has won into the logo imples they don't think it'll ever happen again. I realize that I've commented positively on how teams in baseball's Mexican League put a star in their logo for every championship they've won. But those stars are basically added a bit beyond the edge of the logo, so it's very easy to add new ones. With the thirteen veins so integrated, it's going to be a bit trickier to add a fourteenth vein (and, presumably, remove one from below the name so as to keep the total at seventeen) should they win another Stanley Cup. And what do they do if they get so far as to win an eighteenth Stanley Cup? To keep the total number of veins at seventeen you'd need to have negative one vein below the name. That's not possible.
Now, granted, I could just point out that the Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup fifty years ago (yes, they've gone half their existence without winning a single Stanley Cup) and make a joke about how they're never going to win five more Stanley Cups. But let's keep in mind that the Chicago Blackhawks went almost fifty years without winning a Stanley Cup (they won it in 1961 but not again until 2010), but have now won three in the past seven seasons (2010, 2013, and 2015). So however unlikely it may seem, it could happen. The team should plan ahead better than this.
In any case, all of this borrowing from the Marlboros logo and the Maple Leafs logo means one thing: The Marlies really aren't allowed to have an identity of their own. Mind you, it seems to work out okay for them. Their attendance last year was 5,670, putting them in the top fifteen in attendance in minor league hockey. They're almost certainly making money (if they're not, the Leafs are probably playing some kind of accounting game to get a tax write-off). They've also been successful on the ice as well: in their ten seasons in Toronto, the Marlies have had a winning record eight times and have won their division four times. So does having an identity of their own really matter?
Well, there's the irony of it. It doesn't matter, because the owners (the Maple Leafs) don't care about it. But the Maple Leafs also don't really care about whether the Marlies have good attendance, nor whether the Marlies are successful on the ice. The Maple Leafs care about whether the Marlies help the Maple Leafs. And how do they do on that front? Well, if it's any indication, the Maple Leafs have only made the playoffs once in the past five seasons. It's the one thing about the Marlies that matters the most, and it's the one biggest failures the Marlies have. But of course you can't blame the Marlies for that. Some (probably most) of the blame goes to the parent team — i.e., the Maple Leafs.
You know what? Forget what I said about the Blackhawks a few paragraphs ago. The logo is fine. The Maple Leafs are never going to get that fourteenth Stanley Cup the way things are going.
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