BOSTON - Luca Caputi could not have received a better welcome to the Maple Leafs.
Having finished his first morning skate in blue-and-white, Caputi, 21, was peeling off his equipment in the Toronto dressing room Thursday afternoon when he was handed a phone by yours truly.
Upon hearing the voice on the other end, Caputi’s jaw almost hit the floor in astonishment.
The caller was none other than Kingston Frontenacs coach Doug Gilmour, the former Leafs great who has been Caputi’s idol since he was a boy. In fact, to this day, a Gilmour poster and an autographed Gilmour photo still are on the wall over Caputi’s bed at the family home in Maple, Ont.
The call, arranged by the Toronto Sun, had Caputi shaking his head in disbelief.
“That was awesome. Amazing. Unbelievable. I don’t know what to say,” said Caputi, who was acquired along with defenceman Martin Skoula for Alexei Ponikarovsky Tuesday night.
What did Gilmour tell the young rookie?
“He said I should tune out all the outside influences and distractions and just concentrate on playing hockey,” Caputi replied, grinning from ear to ear. “He said if I do that, there is no better place in the world to play hockey than Toronto.
“I still can’t believe I just talked to Doug Gilmour.”
Caputi made his Leafs debut Thursday night against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden. He started the game on a line with John Mitchell and Christian Hanson.
With Gilmour’s No. 93 clearly unavailable, Caputi was given No. 33, which was last worn in a regular season Leafs game by Bates Battaglia. Jason Allison wore it in training camp this year, albeit briefly.
What does coach Ron Wilson think of his young forward?
“The first thing I did was have him call all the local Italian restaurants so I can have a good place to eat,” Wilson quipped.
Told that Caputi played for Team Canada at the 2006 World Ball Hockey Championship, Wilson chuckled.
“Well, I don’t know how ball hockey or whatever it is translates to hockey,” Wilson said. “At least he’s not a figure skating champion.”