Caputi's dream come true

MIKE ZEISBERGER, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:07 PM ET

BOSTON — As far as grappling grudge matches go, this one had Luca Caputi sitting on the edge of his seat.

It was a frosty Tuesday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and Caputi, a member of the AHL’s Penguins, was loving every minute of this no disqualification tag-team bout between the Westies and the dastardly duo of Acid and Cannon.

Caputi and his friends had come to the local arena for the highly anticipated card put on by Action Unlimited Anthrocite Wrestling, which is run by the Pens head trainer. They weren’t disappointed.

“Chairs were being tossed, guys were being thrown through tables,” Caputi said. “It was great.”

Life couldn’t get any better than this, could it?

Sure enough, it was about to.

“All of a sudden I started getting text messages from family and friends,” Caputi said. “They were telling me TSN was reporting I was going to be traded to the Leafs.”

For this 21-year-old kid who had grown up in Maple, Ont., bleeding blue-and-white, this was too good to be true.

Only Caputi wasn’t buying it. Not until it became official.

He couldn’t sit any longer. He was too excited. He had to leave the wrestling match and go to a buddy’s place.

Finally, at about 10:30 p.m., Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero confirmed what the kid had been hoping for — he was now a Maple Leaf, having been dealt to Toronto along with defenceman Martin Skoula for forward Alexei Ponikarovsky.

“It was a crazy couple of hours,” Caputi said. “I couldn’t ever imagine this was really happening.”

It won’t take long for him to believe it.

Less than 24 hours after the deal, we are sitting in the lobby of the Leafs’ swank team hotel here in Boston and Caputi, having just arrived in town, still is incredulous at what has transpired.

Having yet to officially be introduced to his new Maple Leafs teammates, Caputi, 21, is in the middle of an interview when he is approached by a guy in a spiffy suit.

“Hi, I’m Dion Phaneuf,” he is told. “Welcome to the team. Join us for dinner when your interview is done.”

The welcome isn’t

over, either.

“I just met J-S Giguere, Francois Beauchemin and Dion Phaneuf,” Caputi said a couple of minutes later. “Amazing.”

To fully appreciate the overwhelming emotions Caputi is feeling at this moment, you have to understand just how much the Leafs mean to him.

When young Luca was a wee tot of 2, he was given a Leafs jersey. One day he wore it to school. Bad move.

“I ruined it,” he said. “I got fingerpaint all over it.”

No matter. To this day, he still has it. Just like the Doug Gilmour poster he has in his room. And like the autographed photo he had on the wall of he and Gilmour together.

“He always was my favourite player,” he said. “Always.”

Caputi will make his Leafs debut Thursday night at the TD Garden against the Boston Bruins. On Saturday, he hopes his parents, Gina and Frank, will be on hand when the Leafs play the Senators in Ottawa.

It will be an especially emotional night for Gina, who cried upon learning her son had become a Leaf.

“I’m sure I’m going to have butterflies when I put that jersey on for the first time (Thursday),” he said.

The Leafs believe in him. They like the way he goes to the net like he did on Feb. 3, 2009, when he scored a goal against the Montreal Canadiens on his first NHL shift.

“I must have banged away at the puck four times before it finally went in,” he says.

Caputi laughs. It’s still all so unreal.

Sometimes, it seems, dreams do come true after all.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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