This is a certifiably crazy season. If you are a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fan, here’s what you know today that you didn’t know yesterday: Your team has a 12.5% chance of picking first in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. All the Maple Leafs have to do to get that chance is to lose their five-game play-in series with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Would they do it on purpose? Not a chance!
In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share what I’ve been reading and have some fun with the Ottawa Public Health Board and an iconic television commercial that’s now almost 30 years old.
Item One: The NHL Draft Lottery: Not a Game, But Pretty Exciting
Last night at the NHL Draft Lottery, crazy happened again when neither of the two teams that had the highest mathematical chance of winning the draw did. The Ottawa Senators get the third and the fifth picks, and the Detroit Red Wings had rotten luck and slid down to fourth. That gives a team that loses in the play-in round a 12.5% chance of drafting first overall.
When the night began, the eight “mystery” placeholders in the lottery had little to no chance to win. Actually, the odds ranged from 1% to 6%. Still, a team that wasn’t expected to win the first draft choice did. Although that’s exciting, if you are an NHL “traditionalist,” it probably isn’t great news.
Of course, that will change if you’re a Maple Leafs fan and your team loses to the Blue Jackets, but then gets lucky and wins the second phase of the Draft Lottery with the first-overall pick. Does that make sense? There’s more excitement on the way.
Item Two: Defensive Prospect Kalle Loponen Set to Play in Finland Next Season
Kalle Loponen, the Maple Leafs’ seventh-round pick from the 2019 Draft, will head back to Finland next season to continue his career there. The 19-year-old defenseman who played with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves during 2019-2020 is reportedly ready to re-join Karpat in Finland’s top professional league whenever next season’s play begins.
Although no reason was given for the move, from a competition sense, it’s logical. The 5-foot-11, 187-pound, right-handed Loponen will push his development further by playing against older and tougher competition. He might not get as many opportunities as he would have in the OHL, but it will go a long way towards staying on the Maple Leafs’ radar if he plays well. It isn’t as if right-handed defenseman are a dime-a-dozen.
Related: Worst Toronto Maple Leafs Trades
This season, Loponen played well, especially on the power play. He has a “heavy” point shot, which the Wolves utilized as a weapon. During his only season playing in Canada, he scored six goals and 18 assists in 56 games; 17 of those points were scored on the power play.
Item Three: Even the Government Makes Fun of Maple Leafs Fans
Maple Leafs fans are a tough bunch, but sometimes there seems to be no end of abuse. Now, an arm of the government is getting into the act. Last week, Ottawa Public Health had a bit of fun as they encouraged citizens to wear masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Guess who was the butt of the joke?
I liked the add, but I’m not sure all Maple Leafs fans appreciated the latest joke at their expense. However, there’s a wealth of research that links having a good sense of humour with high intelligence.
Regardless, Ottawa Public Health’s message was that wearing a mask is a way to remain healthy in dangerous times. I encourage everyone to wear one to help ward off the virus. To compliment your Maple Leafs jersey, I’ll share this link.
Item Four: Wayne Gretzky & Mats Sundin in an Iconic McDonalds Commercial
In preparation for Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, McDonald’s chief marketing officer Paul Schrage wanted to take advantage of Michael Jordan’s fame as the greatest basketball player in the world. He created one of the best sports commercials of all time – a game of H-O-R-S-E between Jordan and Larry Bird. It became a classic.
The NHL’s answer to that was to pit the Great Wayne Gretzky against Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin as they tried to outdo each other shooting pucks into the net, with the loser buying lunch. It became one of the best hockey commercials of all time and remains as fun today as it was then.
Gretzky was then playing for the New York Rangers and had just passed his idol Gordie Howe (who had scored 802 points) as the all-time NHL leader with eventually 894 points.
In this classic McDonald’s ad, the two shoot from all over the ice and finally from the rafters of the stadium. Each time the shots get more amazing.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
As Phase 2 of the Return to Play plan continues and the Maple Leafs players return to Toronto, it’s interesting to speculate how far the team could go with their entire roster (with the exception of Andreas Johnsson and for almost the first time this season) healthy. If they can get hot, they have a good chance of going far in the postseason.
Of course, 24 other hockey commentators have probably written the same thing for each of the other teams who are moving into the postseason. As I said, it’s been a crazy season.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf