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Marner and Matthews are debuting in The Nutcracker

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The National Ballet of Canada is bringing the two Maple Leafs forwards on as guest stars.

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker New York City 2013 Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images

The National Ballet of Canada announced this morning that Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews will be guest-starring in a performance of The Nutcracker this December. In this economy, even NHL players need holiday jobs!

Kidding aside, as the National Ballet helpfully explains to us, the role of Cannon Dolls in their performances is traditionally filled by a celebrity walk-on. The full lineup of appearances is here; other than Matthews and Marner, the National Ballet is honoring a delightfully varied list of people including Man Booker Prize finalist Emma Donoghue, two members of the Arkells, and Canadian Food Network host Anna Olson.

So, what does being a “Cannon Doll” involve? Unfortunately, there’s no dancing to it (more’s the pity, as I think quick, agile Marner at least might have some secret talent if he ever tried ballet). From the National Ballet’s website:

In the National Ballet’s production, the guest roles are Cannon Dolls, colourfully costumed Russian Petrouchka dolls who shoot a cannon into the audience to begin the battle scene in Act I.

Well, that sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Especially the words “colourfully costumed”, by which the National Ballet means something like this:

Screenshot taken from the National Ballet website (https://national.ballet.ca/Tickets/Virtual-Museum/The-Nutcracker/The-Nutcracker-7)

Why yes, that is 2007-era Mats Sundin there on the right, wearing a truly exceptional wig/hat/facial expression combination. I assume that Auston was roped in the moment he realized there would be orange velvet pantaloons and arguably too many pom-poms, and Mitch went along with it, because he’s a good buddy.

Even Sundin was not the first Maple Leaf to step on stage during a performance of The Nutcracker. This is a thing the National Ballet has been inviting NHL players to do for a long time, as shown in this masterpiece of a photo of Jacques Plante.

Hockey history books should include more toy soldier costumes. I’m making an unilateral decision here.

Ballet is one of the most physically demanding art forms out there—it requires every bit of the dedication and sacrifice and skill of hockey, if not more so. If Matthews and Marner are lucky, maybe the ballet corps will share a couple training tips. According to Philadelphia Flyers player Taylor Leier, whose brother Keaton dances for the Atlanta Ballet, ballet dancers give great stretching advice.

Marner and Matthews are scheduled to appear in the National Ballet’s December 19th performance. I will require photographs, a lot of them, from several angles, to properly appreciate those costumes.