SUN Hockey Pool

Leafs, Rona give back to Toronto community

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:58 PM ET

The Maple Leafs couldn’t land the NHL’s Winter Classic outdoor game for thousands of fans and millions of TV viewers, but an intimate outdoor practice for a few hundred school kids was just as meaningful yesterday.

The Leafs crowded on to the refurbished Ramsden Park rink, which MLSEL fixed up in conjunction with RONA hardware stores and the City of Toronto, the 10th such project in the past few years.

About 200 students from Jesse Ketchum Public School and Brown Jr. Public attended, along with Mayor David Miller and Leaf alumni.

Temperatures hovered above freezing, but some Leafs wore hats and hoods under and over their helmets.

“I haven’t played pond hockey since I was young,” said winger Phil Kessel, who comes from cold climes in Madison, Wisc. “This was fun. My parents used to take me out on the pond, but I can’t tell you the last time before this.”

Winger Alexei Ponikarovsky, who was raised in Ukraine, noted he never had such great outdoor facilities.

“It’s a good way for kids to enjoy the opportunity ... It’s nice to be outside, to practice in the fresh air,” he said.

Coach Ron Wilson urged the kids not to lose faith in the team in a pre-practice speech to dedicate the new rink.

The MLSE Team Up Foundation and RONA invested more than $235,000 in Ramsden, replacing dasher boards, adding new doors, windows, storage, benches, landscaping and repairing the entrance ramp and stairs to the rink.

“This is my favourite day of the year,” said MLSEL COO Tom Anselmi, whose workers put in 320 volunteer hours on the project.


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