“It was a smaller sweater and it was pretty beat up and had been around for a while,” Tyler Biggs said with a smile. “She asked me to sign it and it was really neat. By far, it was my biggest highlight that day.”
Don Biggs was a star for the Generals during the 1980s, recording 283 points in three seasons before embarking on a professional career that included a dozen games with the Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota North Stars.
His son is just a couple of games into his OHL career with the Generals after deciding to leave the University of Miami at Ohio following one season. The Generals have made it clear they want the 6-foot-3, 224-pound power forward to develop at a regular pace, no matter how great the temptation might be for others to glance back at his dad’s stats.
What’s more important is that Biggs, in his father, has a natural go-to guy, someone who knows life as an OHL player. That Don Biggs most recently skated on an ice surface in the OHL in 1985 doesn’t really matter.
“Some nights, the legs are not going to be there, and he is going to have to find a way to get over that hump,” Don Biggs said from his Ohio home. “He is level-headed and he wanted to play in a situation he thought would be more beneficial to him, maybe a quicker path (to the NHL).”
The Leafs take great comfort in knowing Biggs is with the Generals, aware that there won’t be a rushing of one of their top prospects. He is not being handled with kid gloves, by any stretch, but the team hasn’t put before him a list of expectations that he absolutely has to meet.
And nor did Biggs walk into the Generals’ dressing room at the General Motors Centre with a list of things he expected.
Perhaps because Don Biggs has done this already, the family, as Gens general manager Jeff Twohey said, did not need to be wined and dined.
“When I got the job (in the spring), I was fully prepared to drive to Cincinnati to get to know them a little better,” Twohey said. “Don made it clear it was not necessary. He appreciated it, but it was not necessary. But some parents nowadays love the attention.
“Tyler is much the same way. He told me all along that if the Leafs sent him to Oshawa, he would be good with it and there would be no issues. There was no disappointment or feeling that he was owed a chance to play in the American Hockey League. That was a good sign.”
Part of what will challenge Biggs this season is the simple fact he is a high-end Leafs prospect, and one that just happens to be playing down the road. Defenceman Stuart Percy, selected by the Leafs three picks after they chose Biggs, will experience some of the same with the Mississauga Steelheads, though he is in fourth season with the former Majors and no longer has to worry about the element of surprise.
And since Biggs is making his foray into major junior hockey after one season in the NCAA, more might be expected by those who burn up the message boards talking all things Leafs.
“A guy like Tyler wants to be a pro as soon as possible,” Generals coach D.J. Smith said. “But don’t judge him until the second half of the season. I think he will be exactly the player (the Leafs) drafted and be consistent.
“But it’s a very good league and it’s a lot harder than people think. It’s going to take some time to adjust to three games in three days. My job is to try to take as much pressure off him as possible. Just play hockey.
“The sooner you are having fun, the sooner you are in your own element, the sooner your confidence comes, the better you are going to play.”
Biggs’ commitment, not only to himself but the Generals and the Leafs, started to germinate months ago, when he arrived in Toronto to spend the summer working out with other prospects at the team’s training facility in Etobicoke. Under the eye of strength and conditioning co-ordinator Anthony Belza, Biggs grunted and sweated along with his peers, mindful that Leafs Nation is going to be keeping tabs on his every on-ice move.
“I think I would be lying to you if I said there was not any added pressure,” Biggs said. “I want to do well and I want to perform and reach expectations of other people and myself and I think that just comes with the territory. I can’t let it affect me.”
But that doesn’t mean Biggs hasn’t set goals for himself.
“Being a 20-, 25-plus goal-scorer in this league would be an accomplishment, I think,” Biggs said. “I don’t try to think too far ahead. Showing people that I have that offensive side of my game as well, that could be huge for me.
“Play in all situations, be a guy they can depend on when the game is on the line.”
In that regard, perhaps he will follow more closely his dad’s junior path. Already, there is one obvious similarity: Biggs is wearing No. 16, just as his dad did when he starred for the Gens in the OHL.
“He has been through it, and me going through what I am now — through Oshawa and my first NHL contract, he is the first guy I am going to ask about it,” Biggs said. “I am pretty fortunate.”