You can take Rex Ryan out of Toronto but you can’t take the Toronto Maple Leafs out of Rex Ryan.
During a recent phone interview with QMI Agency, the New York Jets coach could hardly contain his enthusiasm over the Leafs hot start to the season.
“The Leafs are on fire,” Ryan said from New Jersey. “I know that (Phil) Kessel has been kicking butt.”
Ryan’s comments, of course, came prior to the Leafs humiliating 7-0 loss to the Boston Bruins at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday. Even with that, Toronto’s 9-4-1 record out of the gates still puts the team near the top of the standings.
After his parents divorced while he was still a child, Rex and his two brothers moved to Toronto when his mom got a position as a professor at the University of Toronto. He remembers using the money from his paper route to take the subway to Maple Leaf Gardens to watch his heroes like Darryl Sittler and Tiger Williams.
“I used to be a Leafs and Rangers fan, Rangers because my dad (Buddy) was coaching in New York,” Ryan said. “But if I had my druthers, it’s definitely the Leafs for me.”
A year ago, Sittler gave yours truly an autographed stick to take to the Jets practice facility for Ryan. Upon receiving the coveted souvenir, an overwhelmed Ryan was almost speechless.
These days, Ryan admits using the stick, which is a fixture in his office in New Jersey. During an interview session with Ryan for the NFL Network last year, former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci watched Ryan fire objects around the room with the stick.
“Steve came from a hockey background,” Ryan said. “He understood. I have a piece of paper taped to the wall. I’ll take some little ball of paper and use the stick to try to hit that target.”
Who among us hasn’t done that before?