Saturday, April 1, 2006
The Maple Leafs may have thought an April Fools' Day prank was being played on them Saturday morning when they stepped out onto the ice for their regular morning skate only to find thousands of fans in the stands.
This was no joke though, the seats were packed with Buds Club members along with their families and friends. The Buds Club is the official kids club of the Leafs and boasts more than 2000 members from across the country, as well as more than 10 countries worldwide.
|The Buds Club was out in full force. |
"This is a chance for our Buds Club members to come down and see a real game-day skate," said Jen Millard, Leafs manager, community relations and the Leafs Fund. "It's kind of a thank-you to them for being fans and joining the club."
The Buds members were treated to some interactive games and face-painting on their way into Air Canada Centre, as well as an autograph session with Leafs alumni Wendal Clark, Darryl Sittler and Peter Zezel. They got to watch both the Leafs and Buffalo Sabres skate and to top it all off, were given a full tour of the arena.
"Usually morning skates are not that intense but today was pretty tense for the guys and they were showing off a little bit," said Mikael Tellqvist. "I think the kids loved that."
The Leksand Stars, a minor league hockey team all the way from Sweden, were certainly happy to cheer on Tellqvist, as well as fellow Swedes Mats Sundin and Alex Steen.
"It's always fun when there's a lot of people watching you play and I think you excel a little bit and want to play better," said Tellqvist." Maybe we should have this many people at practice all the time. It'd be pretty cool actually."
Steen thought the extra people on hand might be good for their game Saturday night versus the Buffalo Sabres as well.
|"Official" Leafs TV reporter, Jefferson Marshall goes one-on-one with Alex Steen. |
"We're in need of wins and we'll do anything to get them," said Steen. "The fans will help us with that."
Steen also made one special Buds Club member's day a bit more exciting. Jefferson Marshall was selected randomly to be a junior reporter for a day and got to interview Steen one-on-one.
"He did great," said Steen about Jefferson. "He had some good questions today. He asked better questions than normal reporters."
Jefferson got the full experience including a full locker-room tour. He joined in on a media scrum and got to take in the game with the press in the Foster Hewitt Media Gondola.
Turns out Tellqvist and Steen and the extra support at the morning skate might have been just what they needed. The Maple Leafs easily handled the usually troublesome Sabres 7-0.