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Going To California...

by Jaime Sifers / Toronto Maple Leafs

The last few days have been somewhat of a blur for me. From wrapping up a Marlies road game in Cleveland and then joining the Leafs in California it’s been an unbelievable experience. 

Here’s how it all happened.

We’d just lost a tough road game to Lake Erie and during the post-game meal, Coach Gilbert said he needed to talk to me. 

I didn’t know what was going on, but I met him out by the bus and he told me I needed to report to Lakeshore the following morning and to pack for a week. 

I had no idea where we were going. I was just told to be there and that was it. 

My stomach dropped I was so excited.

I had to sit there and think about it for a second and make sure it was really happening. 

And then I couldn’t wait to tell my family. I’m very close with my brother and two sisters - they’ve been my motivation throughout so many years - so I was excited to finally make that call to them.

So after calling my family and my girlfriend, it was a five-hour bus ride home. I also called all my buddies and told them to look up the Leafs’ schedule so they could tell me where I was going and I could pack accordingly. 

I heard California and thought... I couldn’t have landed a better trip!

But I didn’t know what our schedule was going to be on our days off. It’s my first call-up of the regular season and didn’t really know how it worked at this level. 

So I got home at 4 a.m., and started packing (I didn’t want to forget anything). I grabbed some jeans, some sneakers and I threw in a bathing suit. I figured, you’re in California… so why not? Three or four dress shirts, a suit, my toothbrush and my passport and that was it. 

I had charged my iPod for the plane, but I was so tired that morning I completely forgot it. It’s sitting on my kitchen counter right now still charging. 

I managed to grab about three hours sleep and then went to the practice facility. 

I met the team there and then it was off to L.A. I sat with Andre Deveaux on the flight, who had just played his second game with the Leafs, and we talked about the feel of the games at this level. 

I’ve played about four pre-season games with the Leafs in the past three years. That’s not a ton of experience and the regular season is a totally different feeling. 

I was pretty nervous, but in a good way. 

My first skate with the Leafs was before the game in L.A.  – the skill level is unbelievable. You learn so much from watching and playing with these guys.

I knew I wasn’t playing that night, but I always prepare for the pre-game skate like I was playing in the game and it was great just to be there.

Word has spread fast since the call-up. I’ve been getting flooded with messages from friends playing in Europe and old coaches. It’s been great to hear from everyone and get their support. 

I also got a call from Mark Bell - one of my good buddies with the Marlies - congratulating me and telling me if I needed anything or had any questions to call him. 

I’ve been trying to spend time with my teammates on the Leafs, who have been a welcoming bunch. I haven’t felt left out at any point of this trip. 

Mike Van Ryn has been my roommate and he’s been a top-notch guy. He’s talked about his experiences as a rookie, his first call-up and his first NHL game. 

Wednesday was an off-day so I walked to the mall across the street by myself, had a coffee and a bagel and just relaxed as I took it all in. 

It really sunk in during that pre-game skate in L.A. and its just become more and more real as the week has progressed. 

I haven’t heard any word about playing yet, but I’m just staying patient and praying I’ll get a shot.

My father and my older brother are coming to Phoenix just in case. Better to be safe than sorry! My agent, Justin Duberman, was in San Jose for that game and will also be in Phoenix. 

This trip has been pretty unforgettable, but I’ve been keeping my hotel room keys as mementos to remember the trip. 

I’ll pay for them. I don’t care, but I’ve got my room keys and I’m holding on to them pretty tight. 

You only take your first NHL road trip once!

I’ll talk to you all soon,


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