by Rebecca Virgin
September 17, 2005
Toronto fans haven't forgotten how to cheer their Maple Leafs on, so they came out in the thousands to watch the annual Blue and White Game, supporting the Leafs Fund, and Ronald McDonald House.
It didn't take much to entice fans to attend an intrasquad hockey game this year in Toronto with all the new players, new rules, and a new team and building, which only meant more aid for charity on Saturday at Ricoh Coliseum.
""I don't think you see this in too many cities in the world when it comes to hockey,"" said Leafs Captain, Mats Sundin. ""There's no doubt that we have the best hockey fans. I don't think even Montreal can match up to what we saw today for an intrasquad game. It's really amazing to see the fans come out like they did today.""
The day started with a pre-game party - free for all - including interactive games, prize giveaways and an autograph session with Wendel Clark and Darryl Sittler. Leafs Nation was dressed to the nines in anything Blue and White, including face painting, wigs, and props galore.
As game time neared the party continued into the arena and didn't end until the final shot was taken. The game remained tied at fours after the 4-on-4 overtime. Mats Sundin was the lone scorer in the shootout to give his Blue Team victory.
It was a high scoring contest with plenty of stats, but the best number was the $40,000 that was given to the Leafs Fund and Ronald McDonald House prior to the game.
""It's great support that these people are giving and the cheque that they presented for $40,000, that's an unbelievable mark and it's great to see,"" said Chris St. Jacques who was watching from the stands as he had the day off from try-outs today.
The biggest cheers of the day were reserved for the new players, welcoming them into the fold.
""I wanted to come and see Lindros, Allison, and Jeff O'Neill play,"" said Frank Jeffries, a first-time attendee to a Blue and White game. ""Just basically get a chance to see all the Leafs play, considering you can't really get tickets to a game during the season.""
The players also enjoyed the atmosphere, and knowing that hockey is definitely back in Toronto.
""It's nice to see. We always knew that there's a lot of hockey fans here in Toronto,"" said Steve Thomas. ""They've waited a long time for any sort of game and for them to be able to come out here and watch is nice to see.""
Brad Leeb who scored twice for Team Blue and is battling with Thomas for a roster spot this year agreed.
""There's a huge fan base here and it was really nice to see all the fans. I think everybody's just really hungry to see some hockey,"" said Leeb. ""It's always fun to play in front of loud fans and everybody's cheering for everybody and it was a good time.""
Other game notables were Darcy Tucker who scored twice for Team White, and Martin Sagat who scored a power play goal to tie the game at four in the third period.
It was a collective effort on the part of the players and fans that made this year's Blue and White game another success, but the people who really benefited were those who will be helped by the Leafs Fund and Ronald McDonald House.