The Toronto Maple Leafs have their draft prospects in town to taste what it will be like to become a part of one of the most revered and storied hockey traditions in the game.
During the week of July 7-13, the players will participate in a number of activities varying from on-ice training and fitness testing to fun and exciting outings around the city.
"We have three main goals in bringing these guys to town," said Paul Dennis, player development coach, who organized the week's events. "First, we want to teach them what it means to be a Maple Leaf. Second, to show them the steps they need to take as young men to become professional athletes. And thirdly, to expose them and familiarize them with the city of Toronto."
| Leafs prospects listen to a few cooking tips. |
Included in the group of budding stars were this year's draftees Alexander Steen, Matt Stajan, Dominic D'Amour, Todd Ford and Ian White and past draftees Carlo Colaiacovo, Jay Harrison, Jean-Francois Racine, Nicolas Corebeil, Kyle Wellwood, Regan Kelly and Brendan Bell.
Steen, this year's top pick, was asked what it means to him to be a Maple Leaf.
"For me, it's real big," said Steen. "Coming from Sweden, and growing up in Canada it's a great fit for me. It's a class organization. I've met (fellow Swede and Leafs captain) Mats Sundin and I'm just really excited to be a part of this."
However Thursday evening it was neither hockey, nor the big city that was the focus. This night, a little bit of gourmet cuisine and nutritional instruction was on the menu as the group gathered in The Hot Stove Club at the Air Canada Centre.
Brad Long, executive chef & director of restaurant operations, spoke to the group on nutrition and balancing a healthy diet. It gives the young players a glimpse into what the pros eat and how they stay at the top of their game by knowing what their body needs.
"Gary Roberts is big on the protein drinks," said Long. "But, he has a rigorous work-out regime to help his body process all that protein. So that doesn't mean that you guys should start drinking protein drinks everyday."
| Matt Stajan admires his pizza creations. |
Long spoke for about twenty minutes, urging the players to stay away from the processed foods and preservatives, while explaining that most food in moderation and balanced with others is almost always a good thing.
Following the talk, two of his sous chefs, Jonaton Lome and Tim Dunnill took over and treated the group to an instructional and interactive seminar on cooking some tasty, yet simple dishes the soon-to-be stars can easily prepare themselves.
On the menu for the prospects were three types of salad, spaghetti with meat sauce and chicken breast with rice pilaf, each prepared by the two chefs.
Stajan, the Leafs second-round pick in 2002, got a taste of the pressure when he was victimized by his teammates into volunteering as the third chef. He prepared pepperoni pizzas in front of the group alongside the professional chefs.
"This better be good Staj!," joked 2001 draftee, Harrison.
The real payoff came after the seminar when the future stars got to dine on the fare, although there was some hesitation when it came to the pizza. It turned out to be edible, considering the way his mates scarfed it all down.
Friday is the last day of the camp and the prospects take part in a practice before heading back to the ACC for gifts from the Leafs and Raptors courtesy of Centre Sports. The camp concludes with a wrap-up dinner at Wayne Gretzky's restaurant, but no one is guaranteeing the food will be any better than Stajan's pepperoni pizza.