Turn­ing the cor­ner on his­tory

Af­ter years of no hope, op­ti­mism abounds in T.O.

Metro Canada (Halifax) - - SPORT - Torstar NEWS Ser­vice

Toronto Maple Leafs pres­i­dent Bren­dan Shana­han chuck­led and nod­ded when Toronto Mayor John Tory told him he pre­dicted the Maple Leafs would win the Stan­ley Cup while Tory was on of­fice.

Adding hoped he’d get an­other term, Tory said Shana­han had five years to help him make the cam­paign prom­ise come true. And with a team that is turn­ing the cor­ner on his­tory — its 101st sea­son be­gins in Oc­to­ber — just as it has turned the cor­ner in its re­build, it’s no longer out­side the realm of pos­si­bil­ity that the Leafs could win the 14th Stan­ley Cup in their his­tory in the near fu­ture.

“Op­ti­mism is cer­tainly a nice thing,” said Shana­han.

“I think the peo­ple that are with the team, our play­ers and man­age­ment, we’re fo­cused on the lit­tle things we have to do.

“It’s great that peo­ple are ex­cited but we know how much work still has to go into this.”

The fran­chise has un­der­gone a re­mark­able turn­around, from dead last to a play­off spot, to hope for much more built on youth like Aus­ton Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Shana­han tried to pump the brakes on over­hyp­ing the team that opens camp Thurs­day in a scrum Tues­day with re­porters that touched on the va­cated cap­taincy, free agent sign­ings and the team’s con­nec­tion to its fans.

“We got into in the play­offs in our 81st game, we didn’t get past the first round, and yet there was still a lot of hap­pi­ness and joy and op­ti­mism about where we could go. But there’s a lot of work ahead of us,” said Shana­han. “You can’t be a cham­pion in any sport un­less you know how to deal with ex­pec­ta­tions or pres­sure. I think we have a lot of peo­ple who em­brace it.” Shana­han and Tory were to­gether to pro­mote Dec. 19, 2017 as Toronto Maple Leaf Day. On Dec. 19, 1917, the Toronto Are­nas — who would even­tu­ally be­come the St. Pats and then the Maple Leafs —played their first game, and the first game in the newly formed Na­tional Hockey League. (The Are­nas lost 10-9 to the Mon­treal Wan­der­ers on the same night the Cana­di­ens beat the Se­na­tors 7-4.)

To com­mem­o­rate it, the Leafs will play the Carolina Hur­ri­canes, dressed in throw­back Toronto Arena jer­seys.

Bernard Weil/torstar news ser­vice

Leafs pres­i­dent Bren­dan Shana­han speaks dur­ing an an­nounce­ment about the Leafs 100th an­niver­sary game on Tues­day in Toronto.

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