You can tell the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs have missed their team and their sport. Despite all of the NHL teams starting Phase 3 of the return to play plan on Monday, the Leafs dominated Twitter discussions.
Throughout the day, different Leafs were the top trending item in Canada on the social media platform. Before the team hit the ice, Kyle Dubas was the hot topic, before switching to Morgan Rielly and then Auston Matthews. Yes, the boys are back, and everyone is talking about it.
Auston Matthews Has Fully Recovered
When testing ramped up around the NHL a few weeks ago, Matthews was one of more than 30 players who tested positive. Matthews confirmed he was diagnosed with COVID-19, but says he wasn’t hit too bad, “I was pretty much asymptomatic, felt for the most part pretty normal.”
However, Matthews stopped his on-ice training for more than two weeks, which he was feeling as training camp opened. “Conditioning-wise not great,” said Matthews when asked about camp starting. He does say he was able to keep up his off-ice training and he is ready to go, “obviously did my quarantine and feeling healthy now, it’s all good.”
Morgan Rielly is Adjusting to the Mask
When any name starts trending, people immediately think something terrible has happened. The Leafs did not have a healthy blue line all season, so when Morgan Rielly started trending, you couldn’t help but think the worst. He is fine; in fact, many people were commenting on how pumped up Reilly looked. The conversations then discussed who he was paired with – Cody Ceci.
“It felt good to get back in here,” says Rielly, “we’ve been training around here for the last month or so, but it is a different feeling today to have everyone back in the same room to have everyone working together toward a common goal.”
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Rielly wasn’t asked about being paired with Ceci. He says the team’s attitude is right, and everyone is there to work, but there are some adjustments. “I think the biggest adjustment is just trying to wear a mask as often as possible and also the testing. Other than that I think the guys have been pretty respectful of peoples’ faces and that will be important.”
Kyle Dubas Has People Talking
The Leafs’ general manager held a marathon media conference on Sunday. Kyle Dubas answered several questions. Many people were still taking to Twitter to discuss the media conference and his new beard.
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In case it wasn’t clear, Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe are very tight. He told reporters that his conversations with his head coach never stopped, “he and I have basically a continuing dialogue all day, every day with each other just part of the relationship we have over the past eight years now.”
Dubas believes the NHL’s pause benefitted Keefe. You may recall Keefe was flown into Arizona to join the team when Mike Babcock was fired in November. Keefe has one morning skate to get acclimated to the team before a game that night. Now he has months of watching his players on the ice, and four months of off-ice experience. “Now he has had a full build-up with the coaching staff, and then we have a two-week training camp to get the players up and rolling, so I think there is some good fortune in that for us,” says Dubas.
It’s only day one of the full training camp. At this pace, the Leafs may break the internet.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.