This past weekend the Toronto Maple Leafs held their training camp in the city of Niagara Falls, at the Gale Centre. A community rink that usually only sees JrB games and rec league teams play was overflowing with Maple Leafs players, staff, and fans.
Aside from game play, which was covered by Katya here and here, the Maple Leafs went out into the community to build up their fan base, what with them being in “Sabres country” and all.....
There was the autographs outside the rink from the players to the coaches:
Signatures and snaps. #TMLtalk pic.twitter.com/A6kWmo0P0m— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) September 17, 2017
The moment when coach comes out to say hi. #TMLtalk pic.twitter.com/1RAaFUmIKl— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) September 17, 2017
Walking around the Gale Centre is was hard to find any one without at least one autograph and most kids were covered in Sharpie scribbles.
After camp one day a bunch of the Maple Leafs went over to the Niagara Children’s Centre, visiting with some kids who couldn’t make it to camp:
Making new friends with our friends at @niagarachildctr. #TMLtalk pic.twitter.com/PqhRz2io4A— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) September 15, 2017
"This is my hockey player." @niagarachildctr #TMLTalk pic.twitter.com/ldTjVVy1Re— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) September 15, 2017
A friend of ours was at the children's centre, and said the players were all kind and generous with their time. Her toddler was given a Carlton the Bear hockey card and he would run up to every player telling them “bear pooped!”. Eric Fehr spent most of his time with this guy, chasing after each other.
Another trip outside of the Gale Centre involved taking two local youth teams on a trip to the bottom of the Falls courtesy of Hornblower Cruises. This was an event set up by Rogers to promote their new GamePlus feature. On the MyRogers app or team apps Rogers customers have the chance to win prizes like tickets, merchandise or experiences like there.
I was invited by Rogers to take part in this experience, and as well all know I’m in this game for the hockey and the free stuff, so of course I went.
The Mayor of Niagara Falls gave a speech before the cruise thanking the team for coming to Niagara Falls for the second straight year (last years rookie camp was at the Gale Centre), and talked about ions for a while, I kinda tuned it out, but at the end he gave all the players I heart Niagara Falls stickers.
When we got on the cruise, we were given specially made Maple Leafs ponchos to wear that kinda kept us dry? William Nylander was the star of the show with all of the kids crowding around him at almost all times. Steve Thomas, Curtis Joseph, and Darcy Tucker were also there and the parents on the ship gave them the most attention.
Below you can check out the pictures from the event, and find out what the players did with all those stickers
There was an alumni game on Saturday night with the Leafs playing a team from CFB Borden:
The @LeafsAlumni taking to the ice here in Niagara Falls as they get set to take on CFB Borden pic.twitter.com/squcKSqnlr— Maple Leafs Alumni (@LeafsAlumni) September 16, 2017
With the @LeafsAlumni up 13-1 late in the game, @CarltonTheBear has replaced @Cujo between the pipes #TMLtalk pic.twitter.com/qctSGJFVCO— Maple Leafs Alumni (@LeafsAlumni) September 17, 2017
Shootout specialist @CarltonTheBear. #TMLtalk pic.twitter.com/T0vhTC7XnC— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) September 17, 2017
Thank you to CFB Borden and all those who came out for a great night in Niagara. #TMLtalk pic.twitter.com/bKqawRTCd2— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) September 17, 2017
Finally, after the Leafs were done every day they would open up the ice to some local hockey leagues to learn from the Leafs coaches.
My son’s league was chosen so we got some first hand experience about how the training went. Leafs alumni Ric Natress joined in the coaching as well. Each player got a “Leafs training camp” jersey to wear and they ran through some drills, skating techniques, and played a four goal game at centre ice with Carlton the Bear.
It was a great weekend with the Maple Leafs in Niagara Falls, and with the Leafs taking camp on the road for the past 3 years, hopefully another town gets to welcome the Blue & White next fall!