By Matthew Frost
November 30, 2004
TORONTO -- If any of the St. John's Maple Leafs players were worried about their acceptance into the Toronto market, Tuesday morning's warm welcome at Rennie Park showed them that fans of all ages are ready for the arrival of Toronto's new American Hockey League team.
| The Rennie Park ice was in perfect condition for Tuesday's outdoor practice. |
The yet-to-be-named AHL Maple Leafs arrived at Rennie Park in Toronto's west end and took to the ice amid cheers and waves from over 200 students from Swansea Public School just after 10:30 am, spending over an hour on the outdoor ice in a light-hearted practice.
"We just tried to throw the clock back and play a little shinny," said head coach Doug Shedden. "Having a few laughs makes for a loose practice. It's good for the kids to come out and watch and let everyone know that we're coming to town next year."
For many of the players it was as much a trip down memory lane as it was a chance to meet some of their future fans.
"It brings back a lot of childhood memories," said team captain Marc Moro. "You know I grew up in this city and played on a lot of these outdoor rinks when I was young. To see all the kids out here cheering us on, it's a good feeling because you never know how the fans are going to react with the (NHL Maple Leafs) around. You don't know if you're going to be second fiddle but they seemed to have taken to us rather well."
Another Toronto native, defenceman Carlo Colaiavovo, said he didn't know how the day would turn out but both the nature of the practice and the fan reaction was positive.
"A lot of us didn't know what to expect on a day like today," he said. "I can't remember the last time I hit an outdoor rink but it was better than we all expected and to see the turnout here today, it was great."
| Leafs forward Matt Stajan gets off the bus at Rennie Park. |
In fact, it seems that Toronto is ready give the Baby Leafs a look with approximately 8000 tickets sold for tomorrow night's game at Air Canada Centre and over 12,000 expected Friday as the Baby Leafs host a pair of games against the Binghamton Senators.
For Graham Hummel, a grade-six student, watching professional players get put through their paces on the local rink was pretty exciting.
"It's lots of fun to come out and see the players," said Hummel. "This is the rink where we (Swansea Public School) play so it's cool to see Matt Stajan playing on the same ice that we use."
After practice Hummel was part of two teams who got to skate on the ice with the Baby Leafs, an opportunity that was made even better considering the alternative.
"Right now I should be in Math," he said. "I'd much rather be here."