TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs weren't allowed to practice during the NHL's three-day Christmas break. That didn't stop Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and Tyson Barrie from lacing up their skates for a pick-up game with Justin Bieber.
The three Maple Leafs made the 90-minute drive west of Toronto on Thursday to join Bieber and some of his childhood friends for a pick-up game in Stratford, Ontario.
"It was great, it was a lot of fun. I'd never been to that part of Ontario, so it was cool to see where he grew up and meet a lot of his buddies he grew up with," Matthews said. "It was a pretty fun experience."
Bieber and his father attended Toronto's 4-1 win against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 25; they sat behind the Maple Leafs bench, with the 25-year-old singer wearing a Matthews jersey. Marner said that since then, he and Matthews had been talking to Bieber, looking for an opportunity to get together for a game.
"He's been talking to me and Auston since the game he came to with his dad. He said he was back in town and had a shinny game with his buddies back in Stratford. He asked if we wanted to come along. We had nothing else going, and that's something you don't want to miss," Marner said. "Obviously we jumped at the excitement of that, so the three of us went down and it was cool meeting his friends as well."
Matthews and Marner played on a team with Bieber while Barrie skated on the other team in hopes of keeping the teams somewhat balanced. They played 4-on-4, with a few subs for each team.
However, Barrie said he and his Toronto teammates did not go anywhere near full-out.
"We had to take it a little easy," Barrie said. "It was a great crew of guys. It was just for fun, it was Christmas holidays for the boys, they were just coming from work, having a few beers and having some fun. It was a cool experience."
Marner said Bieber, who played in the 2017 NHL All-Star Celebrity Shootout in Los Angeles and skated with some of the Maple Leafs as a 17-year-old in 2011, was able to hold his own.
"He's actually better than I thought he was," Marner said. "He's got pretty good hands and a pretty good shot on him. I think he surprised us."