Turning the corner on history
After years of no hope, optimism abounds in T.O.
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.
Leafs president Brendan Shanahan speaks during an announcement about the Leafs 100th anniversary game on Tuesday in Toronto.