Costumed mascot Carlton the Bear was the only skater properly dressed for the elements yesterday when the Maple Leafs took their practice outside in minus 20C wind chill.
The Leafs and The Home Depot re-christened West Mall Rink with $120,000 in donations and worked out in front of 250 kids from St. Elizabeth's Separate School and Bloordale Middle School. The players wore long johns and head gear and lasted about 40 minutes on the ice.
"Just like Winnipeg," said Manitoba-born Alex Steen of the breezy conditions.
Perhaps the most relieved was injured defenceman Pavel Kubina, warned by assistant coach Keith Acton that he would get the usual additional 15 minutes of skating laps. Kubina has played in sunny Tampa Bay for years, while new centre Yanic Perreault just came from Phoenix.
"The Leafs postponed this event last month because of cold temperatures and were lucky to squeeze the workout in between blinding morning snow squalls.
"It means a lot to give back to the community this way," general manager John Ferguson said. "I was used to this weather in Winnipeg. It was cold, but always clear. Everyone recalls taking off your skates, having your feet frozen and as they thaw, they feel worse."
LETTER OF THE LAW
Many of the anti-Ted Saskin forces in the NHLPA revolt have been Leafs. So news of a Toronto police investigation of complaints of player email accounts being tampered with drew plenty of interest yesterday.
"They definitely have to look into that," said Leafs player rep Matt Stajan. "That's our private life. Whether it happened for sure, I don't know. We knew there was an investigation, but I didn't know the police were involved."
"The (email question) was brought up in a (union-wide) meeting earlier in the season, but we haven't had a conference call since," Stajan said. "If it did happen, guys in our dressing room won't be too happy."