There have been many special guests at the Maple Leafs Hockey School presented by Rogers this summer. Leafs alumni Wendel Clark
, Darryl Sittler
and Mike Johnson
have stopped by. Current players Morgan Rielly
and Peter Holland
have made visited. Players who may soon become full-time Leafs like TJ Brennan
and Stuart Percy
have also said hello.
Even Hall of Famer Johnny Bower visited last week to take some pictures with the kids.
Despite that lengthy list, Monday's session may have been the most unique of the bunch. Leafs head coach Mike Babcock took part as a guest instructor in the sessions. It's rare a child taking part in a youth hockey school can learn from a Stanley Cup and Olympic champion coach. That's exactly what the kids were treated to.
Babcock joined the Leafs Hockey Development staff on the ice to take part in drills. Today's players weren't NHLers, but boys and girls who are 7-12 years old and play across a variety of competitive levels. A cameo from the Maple Leafs head coach was just another example of the club's commitment to development of the game. Toronto has produced more NHLers than any other city worldwide and there are many people hard at work to keep it that way.
"That used to be me right there, I said to someone this morning, I remember all of my minor hockey coaches like it was yesterday," said Babcock. "These guys were all good people that helped me along the way."
While the on-ice component of the hockey school may focus on skill growth in a fun environment, it is designed to grow complete hockey players on and off the ice who love the game. That message is exactly what Babcock tried to convey during his visit.
"You don't get to work in the game like I do every day of your life without somebody helping you," said Babcock. "This school, sure you're trying to help them with their skillset but you're trying to increase their love of the game. That's your number one priority for a week like this in the summer."
After a morning of skills, drills, photos and autographs, Coach left the students with a Monday they'd be hard-pressed to forget.
You can learn more about the Maple Leafs Hockey School presented by Rogers HERE