by Rebecca Virgin
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
(TORONTO) -- The fresh winter chill was a breath of fresh air for the Maple Leafs as they moved their daily on-ice workout to Rennie Park Outdoor Rink to unveil the newly refurbished facility.
The rink, normally home to 700 minor hockey players - the only outdoor rink in Toronto that houses a league - was restored and upgraded by the Leafs with a lot of help from The Home Depot.
"They're experts in building and we're experts in hockey so it was a perfect fit," said Paula Dal Maso of Maple Leaf Sports of the partnership with The Home Depot. "This is a fantastic rink and it's the most economical rink in the city so we're really proud of it."
The City of Toronto couldn't be more happy to be the benefactors of the partnership. Mayor David Miller was on hand to take part in the unveiling.
"Outdoor artificial ice rinks in the city are a fantastic asset. They're well used, but they're getting tired," said Miller. "We need to rejuvenate them and we simply wouldn't be able to find the money to put up new boards and a scoreboard. It's great generosity and a good partnership."
Among the dignitaries was also Annette Verschuren, president and CEO of The Home Depot Canada.
"We like to go to places where the money is not so easy to get, where there's a big opportunity to renovate and make the place great for the community," said Verschuren. "We love to give back. We think it's an important part of our business."
Everyone was in good spirits from the organizers, to the 350 lucky students that got to attend, to the players.
"It's a bit of a change for us so it's a good day to have some fun," said Matt Stajan. "We need some fun in our locker room so hopefully we can bring it to tomorrow night's game and get a win."
The players dressed appropriately with extra touques and layers but the weather was sunny and took the bite out of an otherwise cold Canadian winter day. There was a lot of reminiscing and memories of skating outdoors as children.
"When I was really young my mom would take me and tie my skates at six in the morning and it's cold, but that's where you learn and that's the true spirit of the game," said Stajan.
"It feels like home because I grew up on ice rinks just like this," said Kyle Wellwood. "It's just a lot of fun."
The captain agreed.
"Today was a great day to be outdoors," said Mats Sundin. "It was a while since I've practised outside, probably since I was 12-years old, but it was a nice change."
Everyone involved hopes that the new rink will have a positive impact on the neighbourhood and that the partnership can continue with more projects.
"It's critical for the health of the city," said Miller. "You want young people to have a chance to play sports whatever their income bracket and of course this is Canada. Hockey's our game and we want kids to have a chance and it's on outdoor rinks like this that kids learn to skate."
The Leafs went back to their roots and back to the basics at Rennie Park and all in attendance are hoping that it rubs off and is the inspiration for a much needed win.
"I bet you it's going to have an impact on the Leafs," said Miller. "They're in a bit of a slump and to come out here and remember what hockey's really about, skating outdoors, they're going to take off - five game win streak."
Here's hoping he's right.