The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world operates. One can no longer turn on the television or open social media without seeing an updated infection count or new restrictions about social distancing.
Now in our fourth week without hockey and sports in general (aside from Toronto Raptors championship re-runs), it’s time to forget about all the negativity even just for a minute. Here’s a look at how the Toronto Maple Leafs are interacting with the community and spreading positivity to hockey fans everywhere.
Auston Matthews Visits SickKids Hospital
In these crazy times of self-isolation and social distancing, Auston Matthews brightened the day of the patients at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Since he could not be there in person, he jumped on a video call with some of the kids and answered some of their questions.
Under normal circumstances, the Maple Leafs make time for hospital visits, but it is nice to see Matthews still making an effort to do some good from the comfort of his Arizona home.
The Maple Leafs have been making annual visits to SickKids as part of a tradition dating back almost 100 years. The visits are a source of inspiration for the players, who witness the strength, resilience, and positivity of these children, something we should all try to embody through this global crisis.
Related: 7 Cool Things About Auston Matthews
SickKids was also virtually visited by Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield and Toronto FC midfielder Jonathon Osorio.
Marner, Hyman and Gauthier Take to Twitch
Showing off some different skills, Mitch Marner, Zach Hyman and Frederik Gauthier took to Twitch to interact with fans. The platform gives streamers the ability to broadcast a live feed of them playing video games. Fortnite was the young forwards’ game of choice.
Although some technical issues got in the way of a smooth broadcast, the trio was able to provide some laughs to viewers and a candid look at their personalities. They also allowed some fans to play with them, providing some fun unscripted content and interactions that they will never forget.
Tavares and Nylander Praise Health Care Workers
Honouring those who have put their health at risk during this situation, John Tavares and William Nylander released public statements thanking health care workers for their hard work and bravery through these tough times.
“Thank you for your courage, determination and hard work to fight this crisis” Tavares said in a statement on Twitter. Tavares also mentioned that it is important for Maple Leafs fans to help each other by staying safe and healthy.
Nylander released a video thanking front line health care workers and all those providing essential services for their hard work to keep the rest of the population safe and healthy. He also advocated that it is our duty to do our part by staying home and only going out if absolutely necessary.
Rielly ‘Goes Live’ with Arkells
While he was not the star of the show, Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly joined girlfriend/Olympic-champion Tessa Virtue and Arkells frontman Max Kerman for an interview on Instagram Live.
The Hamilton, Ontario band Arkells have been doing live daily music lessons on Instagram and allowing fans to join in and ask questions during the broadcast. Rielly and Virtue discussed how they have been working out together and shared the importance of staying active for your physical and mental well-being.
Kerman also has a connection to another famous Maple Leaf. General manager Kyle Dubas brought the singer along on the Maple Leafs’ mentor trip in February. The two met through a friend of Dubas’ wife and have been great friends ever since.
Other NHL players have made appearances with Arkells, such as Arizona Coyotes forward Taylor Hall and St. Louis Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly.
Toronto Teams Join Forces During Pause
With sports on pause, it’s not just the players who aren’t working. Thousands of people have lost their jobs as a result of closed arenas, and it’s unclear whether these buildings will open any time soon.
The Maple Leafs announced a few weeks ago that they are teaming up with Toronto FC, Raptors, Argonauts and Blue Jays to help compensate those staff who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The “Team Toronto Fund” has received contributions from executives, coaches, and players of the five major Toronto teams, which helps pay 95 percent of the staff’s weekly earnings for four weeks.
Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) has also been active in other ways. MLSE donated approximately 27,000 pounds of food to Second Harvest, a food bank that collects surplus food and redistributes it to reduce waste and hunger across Canada.
Good News From Around the NHL
Other NHL teams and players have been making a positive impact in their community as well. New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin, Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, and various New York Islanders players have donated N95 masks to their local hospitals. Bobrovsky also donated $100,000 to help Panthers staff who will not be working during this pause.
Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner have also contributed, as Eichel donated 5,000 masks and Skinner $53,000 to COVID-19 relief. These masks are crucial for health care workers who are putting their health at risk during this pandemic.
The Vegas Golden Knights announced they will provide over 7500 meals to health care workers. Vegas Golden Knights Foundation president Kim Frank mentioned they will be providing meals five days a week for the next five weeks to various local hospitals.
With a global crisis on our hands, everyone must do their part to help make this world a better place. While we all want to see everything return to normal, to see our favourite teams compete once again and to see who will be crowned 2020 Stanley Cup Champions, it’s nice to see the NHL do something positive with this time away from the rink.
Maple Leafs writer. Holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Bachelor of Sport Management (BSM) from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. Lifelong hockey player and fan. Prior work in communications with the Professional Hockey Players’ Association and as a Sports Content Coordinator with Rogers Communications.