Lusty Tlusty

This photo of Leafs rookie forward Jiri Tlusty, right, and a friend from the Czech Republic appears...

This photo of Leafs rookie forward Jiri Tlusty, right, and a friend from the Czech Republic appears on the website isthishappening.com.

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:46 PM ET

Maple Leafs' rookie Jiri Tlusty has been caught with his pants down.

And the naked images of him leave little to the imagination.

Tlusty, the once-hot Leafs callup, is suddenly the centre of hockey attention after naked photos appeared on the Canadian gossip website isthishappening.com late last week.

The photos were actually shot by Tlusty, according to his lawyer, Jerome R. Morse.

"Mr. Tlusty took these photographs of himself with his camera phone last year," Morse wrote in an letter, e-mailed to Zack Taylor of isthishappening.com. "As such, Mr. Tlusty is the owner of these photographs and any unauthorized publication of these photographs is a violation of his copy-right."

Tlusty couldn't be reached for comment yesterday morning but, in an earlier e-mail response to the website, he wrote: "I feel like s--t right now."

The photos have since been removed from the website after Morse threatened legal action, but they still appear online in other places. Other photos, including one of Tlusty sticking his tongue out close to a male friend, are still on the isthishappening.com website.

According to a number of sources, Tlusty took numerous photos of himself, posted them on his Facebook website and actually e-mailed a full-frontal nude photo of himself to a woman he met online.

'MISTAKE WAS MADE'

All that happened before he joined the Leafs earlier this season but after he was the first-round draft pick of the team in 2006. The photos, circulated electronically among friends, wound up on the gossip website.

Czech-born Tlusty is only 19 years old and improving in his ability to speak English. "A mistake was made and it has been dealt with," said Paul Dennis, the Maple Leafs player development coach, who refused to confirm any of the details surrounding Tlusty's indiscretion.

"Everyone in this case has responded in the appropriate fashion (since it happened). The important thing for people in these situations is seeing the silver lining here and growing from it."

The Tlusty story is just the most recent example of youth tripping over technology and celebrity all at the same time. This has happened with people more famous, like Paris Hilton, and less famous, like the Saugeen stripper a few years back at the University of Western Ontario.

Leafs' coach Paul Maurice admitted yesterday he was made aware of the Tlusty situation recently and indicated the matter was being dealt with internally by the Toronto club.

"(Jiri's) handled it as well as anyone could handle it under the circumstances," said the coach. "It's an excellent learning experience for a young man.

"There has to be a new awareness (about new media). When you're in the public eye, you have to guard how you behave. I hope this young man can put this behind him quickly. I hope he has already."

Since posting the original photos, representatives of isthishappening.com have been interviewed by ETCanada and Much Music and website hits have grown from 50,000 daily, according to Zack Taylor, to more than 100,000.

'A GREAT KID'

"I feel bad for the kid," said Taylor. "But he's a professional athlete -- this is what happens."

Taylor called the reaction to the Tlusty photos "insane."

Tlusty's junior coach, Craig Hartsburg, wasn't surprised to hear that a player had been exposed online, but admitted to be stunned that the player was Tlusty. "This is bizarre," said a shocked Hartsburg. "He's a great kid, a great kid. I never had any issues with him.

"Does it surprise me that something like this happened? No. Does it surprise me that it happened to him? Absolutely."

Messages left for Bobby Orr and Rick Curran, Tlusty's agents, were not returned.

Tlusty, who was in the lineup last night when the Leafs played the Montreal Canadiens, became almost an overnight sensation earlier in the season when he scored the first goal of his NHL career off of his butt against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Yesterday, however, it was other body parts people were talking about.


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