After his first game back in a Leaf sweater since departing the organization in 2012, Luke Schenn discussed his initial emotions after hearing the news of the trade as well as his hopes for his second tour of duty in Toronto.
How did it feel putting on the Leaf sweater tonight?
Schenn: It was pretty surreal. I kind of got chills when I first threw it on there for warmups. It feels like a lifetime ago as far as wearing his jersey.
Looking back, when you are 18 years old and you first wear it, you appreciate wearing the jersey, but I think with the ups and downs in my career and to get the chance to wear it again… It means a lot more.
It comes with being older and having a better appreciation for the different things that you go through in the league. For it to come full circle and get the opportunity again, I am grateful for it.
Do you have any particularly fond memories of your previous time in Toronto?
Schenn: Just talking to a few of the trainers who were here, we were talking about who was around when I was here, which is pretty much no one. This morning, I ran into Matt Stajan, who is a former teammate.
A lot of these guys were pretty young when I first started here in Toronto. As I said, it is pretty wild, the ups and downs in my career. I am well-traveled, I guess. I have played for a few different organizations and had a lot of great experiences along the way.
With where I am at in my career, there is no question this is pretty special.
When did you sense this could be a possibility and Toronto could be your landing spot?
Schenn: A couple of weeks ago, I kind of heard there was a possibility. It wasn’t anything more than… I heard five or six different teams, too. When you hear that Toronto is in the mix, you are kind of following from a distance, seeing the talent they have here, and they’re gearing up for hopefully a good postseason here. You want to be a part of that.
This is the best time of year being in the stretch run like this. I never got anywhere close to being in the playoffs when I played here. This is extra special because you are coming in right at prime time.
As you’re going back to Vancouver, what kind of emotions do you think you will have on Saturday?
Schenn: It has been a whirlwind. When the trade happens, you look at the schedule, and you’re like, “Wow, I am going to end up here right way.” I left yesterday. I am heading back there tonight.
I am just dealing with crazy circumstances on the personal side of things with my wife being due here in under two weeks. We’ll have to sort some things out here. That is a priority for me.
We will have to kind of talk with whoever in the organization makes decisions on that side of things. It is exciting to go back and be with my kids and wife right away after this all happened. Hopefully, everything will sort itself out here, and everything can be taken care of on that front.
What is your sense of the vibe in the room and the expectations for this team?
Schenn: There is always an expectation here, especially in the last couple of years. The expectation and the bar have been getting set higher and higher. I followed that series in the first round last year against Tampa — obviously, having quite a few buddies on that Tampa team — and they’re right there.
We have some things to take care of down the stretch here. You want to keep building the game up and hit the playoffs in stride. There is no question that coming in at this time is exciting.
Guys in this room are well aware of the expectations. I have been here for a day, and it is not too hard to figure it out.
What does the opportunity to chase a Cup here mean to you?
Schenn: I have been fortunate to have experienced and have my name on it a couple of times. There is no question it would be wild in this city. There is no question.
What a market. What a fan base. I never played a playoff hockey game in Toronto — nowhere close. It was always a rebuild. A lot of times, we were out of it by the All-Star break.
To come in at this time, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself. There are a lot of games left here. You are trying to get adjusted here. I haven’t played hockey in a couple of weeks besides tonight.
I am looking forward to what is ahead.
What do you remember of the expectations of the Toronto market and how the city feels about hockey?
Schenn: The expectations hit me right away. I think I had my draft jersey on. I was 18 years old. I had my draft jersey on for probably three or four minutes, and I think I went to do some media after.
I was pretty naive to everything. One of the first questions I got was about how the Leafs haven’t won a Cup since ’67, and how was I going to change that. Here we are. Eyes wide open.
People are so passionate in this fan base, which is what you want as a hockey player. You come on the road, and you see the fans that follow the team on a Western road trip like this. No other team gets that. It kind of brings back memories of certain situations like that.
Eventually, going back to Toronto and getting a chance to play in front of that fan base in that building is going to be special. This is what you play for as a hockey player.
How did it feel to get the post-game belt?
Schenn: I don’t know if I was deserving or not, but it is a pretty nice gesture by Gio. That is pretty cool. Great group of guys here. They welcome you with open arms. I am fortunate that I have played with a few guys along the way at World Championships. I have crossed paths with a few guys along the way.
I have actually known quite a few guys in this room. It is not like I am walking in not knowing anyone. Guys are welcoming. Everyone reached out right when the trade happened.
Top to bottom, the organization has been great — on the personal side, trying to get everything organized with family and all of that, as well as on the hockey side. It is pretty dialed in.