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Maple Leafs take subway to outdoor practice in full gear

Babcock, players interact with surprised commuters in Toronto

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

TORONTO -- Mike Babcock had a few quick conversations with commuters on the subway Thursday, but luckily not one of them had any tips for the Toronto Maple Leafs coach. He was ready if they did.

"They were smart enough to know (not to)," Babcock said. "There's no question about it. I've run into people and they've told me what I should do, but I often ask what they do for a living and if they want me to come by and fix their company I'd be happy to."

This was no normal commute for Babcock, however. The coach and several of his players -- in full hockey gear -- rode the subway to Toronto City Hall, where the Maple Leafs held an outdoor practice. 

"I think we surprised some people," forward Connor Brown said. "A couple people hopped on the subway with their head down and all of a sudden picked their head up and were shocked, but it was awesome. It's cool to do something like this, something different, and interact with the fans."

Tweet from @MapleLeafs: Making our way uptown. #LeafsForever

The Maple Leafs, who next play against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, SN1, CITY, TVAS, NHL.TV), got dressed at Scotiabank Arena and took a short walk north to Union Station. Once on the subway, they travelled two stops to Osgoode Station and then made another short walk to the outdoor rink at Nathan Phillips Square.

"It was cool. I take the subway a bunch," forward Zach Hyman said. "Growing up I took it a bunch going to Leaf games as a fan. It's the best way to beat traffic. Being able to ride it in full uniform was a little different, but it was definitely fun. Other commuters looked pretty shocked, it was a busy train, but it was fun."

Tweet from @MapleLeafs: This is our stop. #LeafsForever

Joining Babcock, Brown and Hyman were Patrick Marleau, Jake Muzzin, Justin Holl, William Nylander, Travis Dermott, Andreas Johnsson, Par Lindholm, Auston Matthews, Frederik Gauthier, Mitchell Marner, Jake Gardiner, Frederik Andersen, and Garret Sparks, the latter two in full goalie gear. 

"I thought it was great; my wife takes it all the time, I'm on it the odd time," Babcock said. "Obviously people aren't used to seeing the team walking around town in full equipment. The guys live in town and interact with people all the time, but this was a different kind of day."

Toronto mayor John Tory, who was at the practice, said he was impressed to see so many of the Maple Leafs make the commute alongside fellow Torontonians.

"It tells you a story about how committed they are to the community," Tory said. "They could have taken a fancy luxury bus up here but they took the subway and I think that surprised and delighted a lot of people, as this practice did at Nathan Phillips Square."

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