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Leafs to stay in Toronto for now

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Tony Care.

The Leafs will be practicing in Toronto until at least Friday and hope to fly to St. John's later that day according to coach Pat Quinn. The team was scheduled to head east on Tuesday for the start of training camp, but terrorist attacks in the United States put those plans on hold.

"At this point, even if we could fly, there are no rooms in St. John's so, unfortunately, we won't be able to go,'' Quinn said on Wednesday. "We will practice here through Friday, at the minimum. We'll reassess the situation at that time."

The Leafs started their training camp Wednesday with two-on-one drills and then a 45-minute scrimmage. Because some of the players' equipment was already sent down to St. John's and ice availability is limited at the practice facility being used in suburban Toronto, the Leafs decided to cut their training camp roster. Some players were sent back to their junior teams while others were assigned to the Leafs farm club in St. John's.

In the mean time, St. John's is still filled with air passengers who were diverted from the U.S. and forced to land in St. John's. The team's hotel is completely full while many other passengers were sheltered at Mile One Stadium, where Leafs are suppose to practice.

"Clearly, everybody is distracted by the unfortunate circumstances," said Quinn.

The Leafs are still uncertain whether their scheduled preseason opener against the Canadiens on Sunday will take place. The NHL will decide whether to cancel all weekend games, but no one from the head office has commented on the league's plan.

"We're certainly ready to alter our plans any way that's necessary, but at this point we try and play that game," said Quinn. "There are just too many questions right now. We don't have the answers and I'm not sure anyone else does at this point. So we're just going to simplify it (practice) and get to work."

Leaf goaltender Curtis Joseph didn't practice Wednesday because most of his equipment is in St. John's. Quinn said that if player equipment is available Thursday then the team will be split into two groups and concentrate on drills.

The terrible events of Tuesday have clearly left the players and coaches distracted. Quinn, a former Leaf defenceman played against Garnet (Ace) Bailey, the Kings' director of pro scouting who was killed in one of the planes that crashed into New York's World Trade Center.

"I knew him very well," he said. "I've played against him for a long time. That community of scouts is a very close one and he had an unusual personality that was outgoing and infectious. He had a lot of friends out there."

One player who was watching Tuesday's events unfold anxiously was newly acquired Leaf Alexander Mogilny. The Russian sniper's family is still in New Jersey and was thankful to find that his wife, Natalia, and two children, Alex and Anna, were all fine.

"I couldn't believe it,'' said Mogilny of the horrible footage he watched on television. "I thought it was like a bad movie. I felt sick to my stomach while I was watching that. I thought, `What am I doing here?' I wanted to be there (with his family). I thought about going but I could not go because everything was closed. But now that I know everything is fine I feel more comfortable. (Wednesday) was a little better because I knew my family was fine.''

Notes: While Mikael Tellqvist is still the favourite to backup Curtis Joseph, the Leafs signed former Canuck Corey Schwab to a training camp tryout contract. "I feel I can still play in the NHL," said Schwab. "I'm not ready to give up and play in Europe ... The Leafs announced Wednesday that Brendan Bell, Lubos Velebny, Kyle Wellwood, Tomas Mojzis, Carlo Colaiacovo, Miguel Delisle, Jay Harrison and J.F. Racine have all been sent back to their respective junior teams. The club also announced that Jonathan Gagnon, Morgan Warren, Jacques Lariviere and Doug Doull have been assigned to St. John's.
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