September 12, 2011
New recruits to the Battle of Ontario
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
OSHAWA - You’re never too young to be a recruit in this conflict.
The Baby Battle Of Ontario, between the undefeated (2-0) Leafs and Senators will cap the four-team NHL rookie tournament Tuesday night, and it’s getting some hype worthy of the parent teams’ 20-year rivalry. Both clubs want to impress upon their young players that part of wearing the colours of Leaf Nation or Sens Army is finding some extra adrenalin for such mettings.
“I grew up being a big Sens’ fan (right near Scotiabank Place) and obviously that comes with not liking the Leafs too much,” said Ottawa defenceman Mark Borowiecki. “I don’t want to say hate, but that was just kind of the way I was brought up. It means a lot to me to play against them in a Senators jersey.”
The flip side is burly Toronto winger David Broll, born in Mississauga and well versed in Leafs-Senators hostilities.
“You put an Original Six sweater on and it’s awesome, plus you’re representing your country and your hometown,” Broll said. “These are games where you want to prove yourself. We’re both 2-0 right now and we want to win this tournament.”
A large pro-Leafs crowd at General Motors Centre will likely stir the pot.
“Our young prospects embrace and respect the healthy rivalry that we have with Ottawa,” Toronto coach Dallas Eakins said. “Its one thing to beat a Chicago or a Pittsburgh, but it’s a totally different challenge to step up and beat a rival such as Ottawa. It will be interesting to see how our kids respond.”
Rick Wamsley, a former goalie coach with the Leafs and now the Sens, added: “In the history of those franchises, there aren’t a lot of hugs and kisses. I don’t know what to anticipate. We’ll see where it is (Tuesday) night.”
Let it Broll
Broll has one of those handshakes that leaves a reporter’s fingers throbbing afterwards.
‘The Brolldozer’ is the biggest kid on the Leafs rookie roster — 225 pounds on a 6-foot-1 frame — and one of the OHL’s toughest customers. Yet he sounded like a little kid in the seats at the ACC when asked what the past few days have been like for him.
“A real eye-opener,” the winger said. “It’s better competition for me. Guys on your team seem to talk to you a little more, which is good, but the (pace) is also a lot faster so you have to react, get the puck off the boards and keep your feet moving.
“I want to be known as a big physical player, but one who can put some points up as well. It’s looking like I’m starting to do that here, getting myself some more space on the ice.”
His parents, John and Carla, both lifer Leafs fans, have been in Oshawa for every game. They try to make more than half his OHL games, though his switch from Erie to the Soo made that more difficult. The whole family spent time and money to get to St. Paul, Minn., for the draft — and sweated it out until Broll went to the Leafs in the sixth round.
Broll is hoping a hand injury heals by Tuesday night, though he expects to be ready for the main camp.
Dion Phaneuf isn’t seen a lot around Toronto in the off-season, but the second-year captain is certainly the club’s most recognized face when it comes to media exposure in the U.S.
As the Leafs’ rep on the NHL media tour last week in the Big Apple area, Phaneuf had visits and interviews in the offices of Sports Illustrated and the New York Times.
He also conducted interviews with TSN, NBC and Hockey Night In Canada and had sitdowns with writers from ESPN.com, NHL.com and USA Today. This was his third NHL media tour and second as a Leaf.
Toronto’s main camp opens with medicals on Friday at the MasterCard Centre and the first exhibition game is Monday against Ottawa. But there is still no deal for restricted free agent defenceman Luke Schenn. However, talks between the club and Schenn’s agent, Don Meehan, did take place on Monday ... The Leafs have a Russian-Ugandan in goalie Mark Owuya, while the Sens have a Finnish-Iranian forward in Mika Zibanejad. Both were raised and trained in Sweden ... Eight different scorers have supplied the Leafs’ nine goals so far in the tournament. Defenceman Jake Gardiner has a pair, Kenny Ryan, Jamie Devane, Josh Nicholls, Mitchell Heard, Sam Carrick, Greg McKegg and Tyler Brenner have the others ... The two-assist club includes Carrick, Heard and Sondre Olden ... Bowmanville walk-on centre Heard’s family and friends are sporting T-shirts at the rink that say ‘Heard Is The Word’. Also spotted, a Wade Belak T-shirt with a No. 3 and R.I.P. on the back. Sunday’s Season 3 debut of Battle of The Blades will feature a tribute to Belak by Ron MacLean. Belak took his own life at his Toronto residence while in town to film the reality skating show …Robin Lehner gets the start in goal for Ottawa on Tuesday.