Saskatoon is all set to welcome back the National Hockey League.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators face off in a pre-season game at SaskTel Centre Tuesday night.
John Graham of On Ice Management has been bringing exhibition games to the city for 10 years and said landing a game with the Leafs is a highlight.
“That sweater is iconic and everybody seems to want to follow it,” he said.
Graham said there’s more hype around this year’s game with a lot of fans eager to get a glimpse at the Maple Leaf’s wealth of young stars, including first overall pick Auston Matthews.
It’s also a homecoming for Saskatoon’s Mike Babcock. Graham said the appearance of the Maple Leafs bench boss, while coaching his first NHL game in his hometown, is adding to the buzz.
Graham is one of the voices behind a push to bring the NHL to Saskatoon on a permanent basis and is a believer the city could support a professional franchise.
“If you look at what Winnipeg did in getting their franchise. An individual, a group, good management together quietly went and did it,” Graham said.
“When they presented their facts, no owner could turn it down.”
On a separate front are discussions about renovating or replacing the aging SaskTel Centre. TCU Place has teamed up with SaskTel Centre to look at their aging facilities and whether new ones need to be built.
Graham said there is strong case to be made for an NHL team in Saskatoon, but added the league won’t wait for the city to get organized.
“I think the hockey world is tightening up dramatically. The National Hockey League is one more franchise, which means the American Hockey League will be one more franchise,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be waiting 10 years. I’d be getting my pencils out pretty quick.”
Those with a ticket to the game can also watch the pre-game skates Tuesday morning.
Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
As of Monday morning, tickets were still available.