(By: Stephanie Liu)
On Feb. 13, the Toronto Maple Leafs held an open practice at the Mattamy Athletic Centre to kick off their second annual Winter Week, a celebration of hockey.
There was a sea of blue and white at the Ryerson recreation facility, with more than 230 fans in attendance. Not only were Ryerson students present at the event, but there were also attendees from the WE Charity organization and Sick Kids.
“I think [kids] are the biggest fans for sure. I think that when you’re a kid, you love watching your favourite team and you love watching your favourite team win,” said Zach Hyman, Toronto Maple Leafs center. “It’s great to have them here supporting us.”
Not only were their prizes and giveaways throughout the open practice, but there were also interactive fan experiences with Ryerson’s men’s and women’s hockey team. Carlton the Bear also attended the event and even participated in a shootout with Ryerson’s own, Eggy the Ram.
Before becoming the home for the Ryerson Rams, the Mattamy Athletic Centre was formerly recognized as the Maple Leafs Garden. Since its opening in 1931, the venue hosted 12 Canadian teams and artists such as Elvis Presley.
“This is a bit of a throwback and it’s fun to kind of go through downtown and remind ourselves of the community we’re a part of,” said Ron Hainsey, Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman. “We didn’t get tickets very often but when we did, it was obviously really special to come to haloed grounds here at Maple Leaf Gardens and see my heroes play. It’s so nice that they preserved it this way and for us to come out is a real thrill.”
The Leafs’ Winter Week continues with stops in Guelph, Barrie and Muskoka, before a return to the Air Canada Centre for a special Marlies Family Day match-up.