The unofficial start to the NHL season—as in, that’s purely my personal opinion and I have no idea if anyone else shares it—is tonight. The rookies return to London, the puck returns to the ice, and hyperbolic media coverage returns to our TVs and computer screens. I am so ready.
The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ annual Rookie Tournament is back in London this year. For anyone new, it’s a three-day puckfest of fast, entertaining, hope-filled hockey in which the junior-est/ish Leafs will compete against prospects from the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, and Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s a rare chance to see and compare a giant slice of the Leafs‘ prospect pie (cupboard? What’s the appropriate bakery metaphor there? Why are the best options all bakery metaphors?) all at once and really find out what defines and differentiates some of these players. For fans in London, it’s a chance to see potential future stars up close at an extremely reasonable price. (If you live in London and you’re a Leaf fan, there is no excuse not to go to these games. Seriously. Do you have tickets yet? You don’t? Here’s the link to buy them.)
And, let’s not forget the obvious: it’s a chance to see one of the newest and most promising blue-chip Maple Leaf prospects, Mitchell Wendel Marner1, tear up the ice at Bud Gardens. Which is something we’ll probably also be able to see him do most of the year
if when he’s sent back to the London Knights to dominate the OHL and learn how to please oh for the love of god please play an equally dominating role as a frontline centre.
Mitch Marner, wearing 84 in familiar surroundings in London, will start #Leafs rookie tournament at centre, Sheldon Keefe said.
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) September 10, 2015
William Nylander will be there too. And Kasperi Kapanen. (SERIOUSLY, LONDON. GO.)
Here’s the important stuff you’ll need:
- The full tournament schedule (via Bud Gardens), where you can also buy tickets.
- The Maple Leafs‘ final tournament roster.
- The Rogers TV schedule for the individual games.
- Sheldon Keefe previews the tournament on Leafs Lunch, discussing Mitch Marner and William Nylander at center ice.
Despite the misery we’ve had to tolerate as Leaf fans in recent years, count me as one of the first somewhere in the line of gullibles who like the direction and vibe this revamped front office is selling—symbolized this weekend, by this tournament.
There’s a tendency for anyone, when you’ve been hurt a lot (or even once, really badly) to harden yourself or create some sort of defensive blanket of pure, vitriolic negativity as a response. It’s not our fault. It’s just a protective measure we take to stop from getting hurt again. And frankly, more than any other sports fans on the planet, Leaf fans are unquestionably entitled to the jadedness they might feel. (March/April self puts hand up: “Guilty.“)
But what they’re saying now isn’t spin. It’s positive—for good reason, and with good reasoning behind it. They mean what they say. And for the first time since I started writing about hockey, I can say confidently (without any secretly self-imposed denial) that I believe these are the people who can make it happen in Toronto.
- His middle name is not actually Wendel. I mean, it could be. I didn’t check. Wouldn’t that be incredible?
The real important stuff you’ll need can be found here, in the embedded Twitter feeds for myself (@TOTruculent) and Mr. Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungBlood). (Or at least, Brendan’s will be embedded as soon as he sends me the code for the Twitter widget). We’ll be covering this weekend’s tournament for you on behalf of MLHS, and we’ll be live-tweeting a very acceptable percentage of the in-game action.
Join the conversation!