As part of the Return to Play arrangement, there is a four-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. It includes NHLers returning to the Olympics. This creates an interesting dilemma for Toronto Maple Leafs fans.
Remember the Jerry Seinfeld bit?
“You’re actually rooting for the clothes when you get right down to it… Fans will be so in love with a player, but if he goes to another team, they boo him. This is the same human being in a different shirt; they hate him now. Boo! Different shirt! Boo!”Jerry Seinfeld
Lots of Leafs in the Olympics
NHL players will be playing in the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing. For hockey fans, this is a dream come true. It’s like a real-life video game with only the best players on teams that would be impossible to put together in the real world.
There will be a lot of Maple Leafs in the Olympics, and there are likely to be at least three of them playing for gold for Team Canada.
Tavares will be there again and he is no stranger to the international game. He was part of the 2014 Olympic team that won gold at Sochi. He also has two gold medals for his World Junior appearances in 2008 and 2009 and gold at the 2012 Spengler Cup in Davos.
Marner will make his Olympic debut in 2022. Not only because of his talent, but he brings the added benefit of usually playing on the same line as Tavares. Olympics are short, and there is not much time to get chemistry established, so having one line two-thirds complete is a significant advantage. Marner has limited international success but did win a silver at the World Championships in 2017.
Rielly is likely to make the team. Of course, there is no shortage of highly skilled Canadian defensemen. Still, his offensive awareness and familiarity with Tavares and Marner make him a likely choice. He did win gold representing Canada Pacific at the 2016 World Championships in Russia.
Leafs Representation on Other Teams
There will be amazing hockey to watch. However, lots of Leafs will be playing on teams other than Canada. Be prepared to boo some clothing!
Being a Canadian-born Swede worked out well for Willie. He would have a tough time cracking a stacked Canada lineup. However, he is likely to be on the top line for Sweden. The blonde flow will be streaking down the ice, lined up with Elias Pettersson and Gabriel Landeskog. That will be a sight to see.
Another Leafs winger could be trading in his blue and white jersey for Sweden’s blue and yellow. Although he doesn’t come to mind right away when you think of the Swedish roster, he was invited by the national team for the 2019 World Championship, but he declined.
This is a long shot, but there is an outside possibility that the young blueliner cracks the lineup. Sandin is developing well in the Toronto system, and there’s an added advantage to him making the team, similar to Team Canada.
With Nylander there and maybe Johnsson, adding a third Leafs player would be an advantage to familiarity on the ice.
Another one of Toronto’s ultra-skilled, speedy wingers will be wearing blue and white minus the Leafs logo. Kapanen is likely to make the Finland roster that will be stacked up with young skilled players.
Matthews Playing for the Rivals
Could it get much worse than Toronto’s favourite son beating Canada and then waving Old Glory with a gold medal around his neck? Remember this is written for a Canadian Maple Leafs Nation perspective.
Toronto’s turnaround as a franchise started by drafting Auston Matthews first overall in 2016. Maple Leafs’ fans have loved this guy since he scored four goals in his NHL debut. On a team full of poster-worthy players, he IS the franchise. But the face of Canada’s team (yes, Toronto) will be wearing the worst clothes of all, the rival USA jersey. As Seinfeld says, “Boo! Different shirt! Boo!”
Six, maybe more, Maple Leafs will be playing in Beijing. Leafs Nation will have mixed emotions watching their players in other jerseys. However, they will celebrate all of them when they return to Toronto to show off their medals, no matter which country they represent.