Leafs dine on turkey and Cowboy fare

The Toronto Maple Leafs attended Thursday's Cowboys-Dolphins game at Cowboys Stadium. (GETTY IMAGES)

The Toronto Maple Leafs attended Thursday's Cowboys-Dolphins game at Cowboys Stadium. (GETTY IMAGES)

Terry Koshan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:14 PM ET

Just another afternoon at a football game?

Not quite.

The Maple Leafs players and staff on the trip attended the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins at Cowboys Stadium on Thursday, but it was more than just an opportunity to spend a few hours watching another group of professional athletes do what they do.

A bonding time, to be sure, and one that has the ability to help a club in the long run.

“Any time you have experiences like that, where you are building memories as much as anything else, there is something to talk about for a long time,” coach Ron Wilson said.

“This seems to be a pretty tight group, and it helps when you are winning. Most of our guys are in a similar age group. It’s between 30 and 20, not like 35-year-olds and 18-year-olds are trying to hang out with each other.

“Not many guys on our team are married or have kids, so they have a lot of things in common.”

This four-game trip, which ends on Sunday when the Leafs visit the Anaheim Ducks, is just one of a couple of extended trips the Leafs will have in the 2011-12 regular season. It’s more common for Western Conference clubs to be on the road for longer stretches, but the Leafs are taking advantage. They had a team meal on Wednesday night after a day off, and also stayed away from the ice in Tampa on Monday.

The longest trip of the season will be in March, when the Leafs play in Washington on the 11th and visit Florida, Tampa Bay and Ottawa before ending the swing in Boston on the 19th.

Of course, the Leafs had some time to get to know each other off the ice in October, when they had a week off between home games. The three days spent at CFB Trenton was an experience the players discussed for days afterward, and the Leafs were 5-2-1 in their next eight games.

The Leafs arrived at Cowboys Stadium approximately 90 minutes before the opening kickoff on Thursday and had a chance to give themselves a tour. Forward Joffrey Lupul had visited several NFL stadiums around the U.S., but said nothing compared to Cowboys Stadium, a gem that opened in 2009. It’s the largest domed stadium in the world.

More than a few players tweeted pictures from the venue, including shots of the 160-by-72-foot high definition video screen.

“It was unlike any stadium I have been in,” Lupul said. “None of them are in the same category as that one. And the production was unbelievable. Pretty impressive.”

Centre David Steckel, a native of Milwaukee, grew up as a fan of the Green Bay Packers. Just a bit of a difference between Lambeau Field and Cowboys Stadium.

“Pretty amazing,” Steckel said. “It’s a great facility. You’re not just going to a game, they make it an experience.”

The Leafs were served a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner in their suite at the game. The Cowboys beat the Dolphins 20-19 on a 28-yard, last-play field goal by Dan Bailey.

“I wasn’t disappointed by the meal either, and I was worried about that,” Wilson, who used to go to San Francisco 49ers games when he coached the San Jose Sharks, said. “I’m used to cooking the turkey myself and all of that stuff. The atmosphere in the building was unbelievable. It was a lame first half, but the second half picked it up and our players really enjoyed it.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

 


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