MAPLE LEAFS NOTES: The ice wasn’t pretty in a difficult start to the tournament for newcomers

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When the Traverse City Prospects tournament began Thursday afternoon, there was a hole in the ice — and a few holes in the schedule for the Maple Leaf rookies.

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Shortly after the seven-minute mark of the opening game between Toronto and the Columbus Blue Jackets at Center Ice Arena, a noticeable dent occurred at a location near the boards, interrupting play. The extensive repair work and the need for the Detroit-Dallas game to begin as scheduled that evening meant that teams went to their rooms, eventually moved to an adjacent stadium and finished the game with two 26-minute periods.

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The Leafs, who were already two goals behind at the time of the delay, fell 5-0 after the second period and lost 7-3. The Leafs’ top-rated forward, Matthew Knies, had some good scoring chances early in the game, but the goals went to forwards Ryan Tverberg, Max Ellis and defensemen Topi Niemela. Luke Cavallin was in net on Thursday, with Dennis Hildeby and Vyacheslav Peska expected to split the remaining starts.

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Toronto plays Dallas on Friday night and ends Sunday afternoon against the host Red Wings.


Niemela, a third-round pick in 2020, invested a lot of time improving his shot last summer.

“I’m trying to get more power (and accuracy),” said Niemela, who scored 18 goals for Karpat in the Finnish League over the last two seasons and three in 13 games for the AHL Marlies last spring. “A lot of practice on the ice, off the ice and getting my hands stronger. I think I succeeded. We will see.”

Niemela said he also watched a lot of videos of the shot releases of Auston Matthews, his compatriot Patrik Laine and Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson.


NHL Players Association executive director Marty Walsh and assistant Ron Hainsey were in Columbus Thursday to meet with Jackets players to investigate whether new coach Mike Babcock made an inappropriate request for the personal photos on the cellphones the player to look at.

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The former Toronto coach, who was heavily criticized after his firing when it was revealed that he asked forward Mitch Marner for his personal opinion of the Leafs and then shared it with the entire team, claimed he only wanted the pictures for team bonding purposes at Columbus, which was confirmed by Captain Boone Jenner. The league itself is also looking into the matter.

QUINN gets what he deserves

If you’re in the Hamilton area on Saturday, there will be a rededication of the spruced-up Parkdale Arena, named after Maple Leafs player/coach/general manager Pat Quinn, at 11:30 a.m

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Participants include play-by-play announcer Joe Bowen, as well as Quinn’s former Toronto teammate Mike Pelyk, ex-Leaf Steve Thomas and Canadian Women’s Hall of Fame star Geraldine Heaney.


New ice has been installed at Scotiabank Arena for the 2023-24 season, but it is reserved for event use until exhibition games begin in two weeks… Former Leafs Alex Kerfoot, Travis Dermott and Travis Boyd are all on Arizona’s roster for the trip to Australia Play in some preseason games against the Los Angeles Kings in Melbourne… Another former Leaf, winger Nick Ritchie, has a PTO with the St. Louis Blues and while Phil Kessel is considering such offers around the league, he has to yet to sign… Jon Elkin, who served as the Leafs’ goaltending coach under general manager Kyle Dubas, has joined Dubas in that role on Pittsburgh’s staff… Leafs main camp begins this Wednesday.


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