Growlers keeping dream of the 90s alive in St. John's

The Newfoundland Growlers brought back the 90s with style by donning their retro, throwback 1991-92 St. John's Maple Leafs jerseys Saturday night against the Worcester Railers at Mile One Centre.

It's been nearly 15 years since the hometown fans last witnessed the blue and white St. John's logo stitched on the front of a professional team's sweater.  

"It's obviously pretty cool for the guys that are local here, that grew up watching the Maple Leafs play," said Growlers captain James Melindy, shortly after Saturday morning's on-ice workout.

"The players, I know they were obviously big in the community as well, so even being in school there would be players coming to visit. So you grew to love the team. Now it's special that it's kind of come full swing."  

Jeff Parsons/Newfoundland Growlers

Melindy hails from the Goulds neighbourhood of St. John's. The gritty defender helped the Growlers to the ECHL's Kelly Cup last season, the first professional hockey team in the province to have ever won a championship.

But there was more to Saturday night than just the nostalgic uniform.

The Growlers are pulled out all the stops by including archival video from the Maple Leafs heyday, played on Mile One's screens before the game and during stoppages in play. Fans even heard a familiar voice calling the game, as long-time St. John's Maple Leafs broadcaster Brian Rogers saddled up behind the microphone for the entire 60 minutes.

What's more, the team's social media presence has rebranded as the St. John's Maple Leafs. 

"Everybody is reacting to it well. I've heard a couple of my buddies have bought some jerseys. Obviously it's super popular," Melindy said.

"The Newfoundland population, the majority of it is Toronto Maple Leafs fans. So, a little bit of history going back into it, the fans definitely jump onto that."

Long history with Baby Buds

Melindy said he had his first run in with the affectionately coined Baby Leafs as a youngster growing up in Goulds. 

Melindy remembers goaltender Felix Potvin living across the street from his parents' house while playing in St. John's.

Potvin played 40 games in St. John's before getting called up to Toronto and cementing himself into Maple Leafs history by leading the team to a controversial conference final match-up against Wayne Gretzky the Los Angeles Kings in the 1992-93 NHL playoffs.

Mike Moore/CBC

"The most I really remember of it is what my parents told me," Melindy said.

"But I remember coming down and watching — I'm a defenseman myself — Nathan Dempsey, Carlo Colaiacovo. Shawn Thornton was actually a friend of my mom's sister that lived in Oshawa, so there's a little bit of a connection there."

Newfoundland won Saturday night's match-up 3-2.

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