by Jeff Viray
The Toronto Maple Leafs took their practice to Nathan Philip Square on Sunday for their annual outdoor practice. The outdoor practice was the first one the Leafs have held in over three years.
Thousands of fans dropped into Nathan Philip Square just for the occasion. One fan, Derrick De Agrella, told me that the outdoor practice was a great way for the team to connect with fans. “You know seeing all these people here this early on a Sunday morning, it must really tell the team how big of fans we are of them.”
The practice had other activities and programs in which visitors were able to participate. The event had a shooting practice drill for some giveaways and you could also get coffee at the Tim Horton’s tent.
Before the Leafs’ practice, there were events that took place on the ice, with hockey players from around the city participating in drills for the entertainment of the crowd.
Nathan Philip Square also saw a few additions of screens around it, for easier viewing of the practice, considering the number of fans that made their way downtown.
During the practice fans saw the players do a skate and shoot-a-round. They were also treated to a mini-tournament between the players. Teams were divided based on where each player was from. John Tavares led his Team Ontario teammates to victory.
Fans were able to connect with the Leafs players, in more personal ways, fans saw players take their furry friends onto the ice with them, this was great for the fans to see a lot of players’ “softer side”. Not only that a few lucky fans also had a chance to travel with many of the Leaf’s players on the TTC. Players like T.J. Brodie Wayne Simmonds and David Kampf were all posted on social media making their way to practice on the TTC.
For many fans who attended the outdoor practice, like Onur Donmez, this is an experience he won’t be forgetting soon. “It’s always a good time to see the Leafs around, with this being the cheapest way of watching the Leafs I definitely won’t forget about this.”
Almost all the Leaf’s players made their way to the practice, from Mitch Marner to John Tavares, and Morgan Reilley. One notable person missing from the outdoor practice was Auston Matthews. The defending Hart Memorial winner still finds himself sidelined with a knee injury. Matthews who injured his knee against the New York Rangers in their January 25th game, was originally slated to miss at least three weeks.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will use this practice and take all this experience with them as they face off against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks when they make their way into town Wednesday night.