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From the Branches: The end of an era

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Hey everyone. Happy Friday! Lots of good stuff happening today including the start of the Rookie Tournament. More on that and other Leafs news in a second, though, because I want to give top billing to a few women's hockey players who are leaving the game:

Trio of players announce retirement from Canada’s National Women’s Team | Hockey Canada

Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps, and Catherine Ward have announced their retirement from hockey. All three have had incredibly successful careers with the national team. It's been an absolute treat to watch these three women play over the years and I'm going to miss it.

Jayna Hefford has been a part of every single Olympic women's hockey team since the sport was added to the Olympics in 1998. Gillian Apps has been an important part of three Olympic teams, relied on for her great defensive play. Catherine Ward has been a legit star on defence for Team Canada since she made the team in 2009. None of these retirements are particularly surprising but it's still sad to see them go.

You can watch some career highlights for each of them here.

Leafs links

Moving on to Leafs related news, the Rookie Tournament starts today. The baby Leafs take on Ottawa's rookies tonight at 7:35 in London, Ontario. You can check out the rest of the schedule here (scroll to the bottom).

Our very own J.P. Nikota will be there so stay tuned for coverage and interviews from the tournament.

Last night, the Leafs also held their first event of Fan Fest: a town hall with Brendan Shanahan, Mike Babcock, and Lou Lamoriello. They said some promising things but didn't say anything new or surprising for those who have been paying attention to the statements this front office has been making all off-season.

They did, however, announce the mystery member of Legends Row. Surprise! It's Mats Sundin! His statue, along with Borje Salming's, will be going up at Fan Fest this weekend. Here's the video of him finding out about the statue:

Maple Leafs' Top 25 Under 25 - #2 William Nylander | Pension Plan Puppets

Are you ready to read Clark's 10,000 word opus on Petter Granberg at #1? Get ready by reading yesterday's instalment of the T25U25!

Leafs Sign Brad Boyes To PTO, Create Competition | Pension Plan Puppets

15 years after being drafted by the Leafs, Brad Boyes may finally play a regular season game with the team.

Curtis Glencross on Brady & Walker talking Toronto, Babcock & more | Maple Leafs Hotstove

Here's an interview with one of the other players the Leafs have signed to a PTO.

Other news

Born in the USA | The Players' Tribune

This is a really great stuff about the early years of Tony and Cammi Granato. Recommended reading.

Estimating how many goals Kessel will score as a Penguin in 2015-16 | theScore

Long sigh.

Boston Bruins' first round draft picks fail conditioning test | Sports Illustrated

I'm going to point and laugh at the Bruins to make myself feel better.

You don’t have to be Chara to be an effective NHL defenceman | TSN

Jack Johnson Is Fighting For His Contract In Bankruptcy Court | Deadspin

Report: Grand jury set to resume investigation into Kane | TSN

There's been so much conflicting information from anonymous sources recently that it may just be better to ignore all reports about this case until someone involved with the case has something to say, on the record

...I say, as I include this link in the FTB.

Miami ice: Randy Hernandez joins U.S. National Team Development Program | TheColorOfHockey

Really great story about a kid from Miama joining the US NTDP. Could do great things for the growth of the sport in Florida if he pans out as a player.

Team Rankings and Projections | Don't Tell Me About Heart

With the caveat that I haven't had the time to do much more than skim through the data and methodology, this is a pretty cool data visualization project. The link above will take you to the 2015-16 projection for the Leafs and you can find the methodology and data here. Take a look! (Also I'm sure someone in the comments will mention if there's something fishy in the methodology.)

Important Announcement

One last thing, with an election just around the corner, we'd like to remind commenters to keep political stuff out of the FTB. It can be really polarizing and off-putting for a lot of readers, even if we do, for the most part, agree with one another.