European start in Leafs' future?

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

The Maple Leafs are rumoured to be on the short list should the NHL again choose to open the 2008-09 season in Europe.

"I have heard about it," general manager John Ferguson said yesterday. "No question, the Leafs are a team with global appeal."

The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings play in London, England on Sept. 29 and 30.

Stockholm would be a strong possibility for the Leafs, who have Swedes Mats Sundin -- for this year anyway -- as well as Alex Steen. A perfect match would be the Vancouver Canucks with the Sedin twins and Markus Naslund.

Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., is gung-ho for the idea, which might be raised by the league at this week's board of governors meeting because participating teams need a long time to plan such a trip around training camp.

"The world is a lot more flat today to allow this kind of event," Peddie said. "I'd think we'd be an (attractive) team."

BACKING HIS WORDS

Media-savvy coach Paul Maurice knew exactly what the uproar would be from both Leafs bashers and backers when he predicted that Toronto would "make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup."

But he doesn't think the statement heaped undue pressure on the players.

"No one is in there wringing their hands that I threw it out there," he said yesterday. "I think we can do it, and so do they."

PAW RAYCROFT

Goalie Andrew Raycroft accepted congratulations from friends all this week at camp on a 'new arrival' named Stella and admitted he and wife Erin aren't getting much sleep. This bundle of joy, however, has a tail.

"No kids yet, but we just got a new bull retriever," Raycroft explained. "Stella is hilarious to watch. I'm taking her to doggy (obedience) school this week."


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