The guy with the Wendel Clark jersey watching the Maple Leafs practice at the Ramsden Rink wasn’t giving his name.
The Leafs Team Up Foundation and RONA invested more than $235,000 in upgrades including new doors, windows, benches, landscaping and entrances to the rink which sits just north of Bloor Street.
To commemorate the work, the full Leafs team held a practice at the facility attended by 200 schoolchildren. The guy with the Leafs jersey, walking by the park in the morning, knew he had to come.
“I’d rather not give my name,” he said.
“I was walking here this morning and I heard the Leafs practice was today so I called in sick.
“It was a chance to see the guys up close and personal. I couldn’t miss this. Plus, I don’t live far from here. I will be out here skating tonight.”
And there, in a nutshell is the story. A chance for people who otherwise might not have the chance to see the Leafs up close married with a legacy that will keep the rink viable for decades.
“There are two things here,” said Tom Anselmi, Executive Vice-President, COO for MLSE.
“One is investing in this facility and fixing it up. We’ve got rinks all over the city that need a lot of help. We want to attack two or three of those a year with our partners the city and with RONA. We have infrastructure that’s crumbling and it’s one of the barriers for kids playing hockey.”
This is the 10th rink refurbishment and the fifth outdoor practice.
“Second, we’re getting the team back into the community at a grass roots level. A whole whack of kids come out and see an outdoor practice. It kind of strips everything back to a bunch of good kids who are really great hockey players and a sheet of ice.
“It’s my favorite day of the year.”
A pair of new Leafs are quick to agree.
“I haven’t skated outside in I don’t know how long,” said Phil Kessel
. “It takes you back to when you are a kid, out there having fun on the pond. In Madison (Wisconsin) my dad and mom would take me to skate on a lake.”
For Francois Beauchemin, who grew up playing on the ponds and rinks of Sorel, Quebec, between Trois Riviere and Montreal, the near freezing temperatures made for a perfect morning.
“For me this wasn’t cold today. A lot of guys were saying this was cold but for me growing up we had a lot colder than this.”