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Matthews regrets that legal issues are 'distraction' for Maple Leafs

Center faces disorderly conduct charge in Arizona

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Auston Matthews was apologetic Wednesday for any effect his pending legal issues may have on his Toronto Maple Leafs teammates and the organization.

"I regret any of my actions or whatever that put a distraction on the team or any stress on any individual," the center said. "I take a lot of pride in preparing for the season and representing the Toronto Maple Leafs as well as I can.

"Unfortunately due to the situation, I can't make any other comments."

Matthews, who turned 22 on Sept. 17, is facing a disorderly conduct charge in relation to an incident in Scottsdale, Arizona, on May 26. Matthews, who grew up in Arizona and lives there during the offseason, was not arrested.

According to court documents filed through Arizona's judicial branch website, Matthews is charged with one count of disorderly conduct and disruptive behavior or fighting. He was issued a summons July 23 and had a pretrial conference scheduled for Wednesday in Scottsdale but was not required to appear in court.

According to the police report, a female security guard at a condo complex in Scottsdale made the complaint after she said Matthews and a group of males tried to open her vehicle as she sat inside doing paperwork at 2 a.m.

The woman said she got out her car and confronted Matthews, who she said appeared to be intoxicated. She said Matthews said he thought it would be funny to see how she would respond.

Coach Mike Babcock said he only learned of the situation Tuesday.

"Obviously we're disappointed," Babcock said. "As the Toronto Maple Leafs we really pride ourselves on doing things right on the ice and off the ice, and how you treat people. It's an unfortunate situation."

General manager Kyle Dubas said that he was disappointed to learn about the matter on Twitter, not from Matthews.

"You don't like for there to ever be any situations, and then when you do, you want to know about them as soon as possible," Dubas said after Matthews was one of three Toronto goal-scorers in a 3-0 preseason win against the Montreal Canadiens.

Matthews said it was an "error in judgment on my part" to not inform the Maple Leafs.

Babcock said he doesn't feel the incident will alter the Maple Leafs' focus on the regular season, which begins at home against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 2. 

"Anything that goes bad, what you do is you take it, you get better as an organization and it makes you better as an organization," Babcock said. "And so, we've got a close family inside and we're going to look after Auston and we're going to look after our options."

Babcock said he approached Matthews before practice Wednesday and told him, "The coach is here for the players. I'm here to help make them better people, better men, better players."

Babcock said he didn't expect the incident to affect Matthews' standing as one of Toronto's leaders. Matthews, defenseman Morgan Rielly and center John Tavares appear to be the leading candidates to be named Maple Leafs captain, a role that has been vacant since defenseman Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 9, 2016.

"I don't think today is the day to talk about the captaincy," Dubas said.

Babcock is expected to announce a captain before the season opens. 

"He's taking it very seriously," Rielly said of Matthews. "He knows these issues are serious. It's not something we take lightly, and that's how he's approaching it. 

"As teammates we're going to support him."

Tavares was asked if the Matthews incident was a distraction for the Maple Leafs.

"Well, we've got a lot of people here today," Tavares said, referring to a group of about 30 reporters. "But we're focused on the ice. And we all know what a quality teammate and person Auston is.

"Like he said, he doesn't want to put stress on the team or on anyone else. He's represented this team and this locker room extremely well ever since I've been around him and before that.

"We're going to stand behind him. We believe in him as a person and as a teammate." independent correspondent Dave McCarthy contributed to this report

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