What is a Marlie? History behind Toronto’s unique nickname

What is a Toronto Marlie? (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

What is a Toronto Marlie? (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

While they’re familiar with the opponent on the ice, the Toronto Marlies, several of the Texas Stars couldn’t answer the question, “What is a Marlie?” at Western Conference Finals Media Day on Tuesday.

“I’m not even sure,” Stars captain Maxime Fortunus said. “A bird or something? I have no idea. I’ll ask around … I’ll have to ask those Toronto guys. I’m from Montreal, right?”

When asked, the Ontario natives where just as stumped.

“I don’t, I probably should,” said Dustin Jeffrey, a Sarnia native. “No (I’m not gonna guess), I’m gonna leave that alone.”

“No, I can’t say that I do, actually,” said Mike Hedden, who grew up two hours south of Toronto in Dunnville. “No (guess), I don’t want to sound too much like someone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about.”

Brett Ritchie didn’t know either. But likely should have had a better answer after playing for the junior version of the Toronto Marlies in the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

“I didn’t really look into the crest I guess,” Ritchie said. “I played for them for four or five years and I just wore the jersey.”

So, no thought on what the name meant?

“No, I didn’t really care,” Ritchie said.

For those who do care, here’s a short history lesson on the Marlies name:

In the early 1900s an athletic club was formed in downtown Toronto called the “Toronto Malborough Athletic Club.” The club was named after the Duke of Malborhough — Winston Churchill’s uncle — and the club got permission to use the name and family crest in 1903.

The club turned into a Junior A hockey team, that modified the spelling to “Marlboros” in the 1950s and won seven Memorial Cups, while maintaining close ties with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 1989, the Junior A team moved to Hamilton and eventually Guelph, while the Toronto Maple Leafs retained the rights to the name.

Before the 2005 season Toronto moved its AHL affiliate from St. John’s to Toronto. The team decided to name the AHL affiliate after the former junior franchise. However, since the name was spelled the same way as Marlboro Cigarettes, Toronto opted to go with the nickname “Marlies” as the official name.

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