It has been a very busy and exciting week for 22 of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ young prospects.
The 15 forwards, four defencemen and three goaltenders — all of them Maple Leafs prospects — spent the week of July 7-11 doing on-ice workouts, learning new exercises to try in the weight room, and stretching their minds in a series of classroom sessions covering such subjects as nutrition, media relations, special recipies to promote endurance and conditioning, and more. They even had a trip to a local area farm with Canadian strongman Jamie Aszmies.
Monday and Tuesday were spent at the Leafs’ training facility, the Lakeshore Lions Arena. After a high paced morning skate — something many players were dreading after having been off the ice for the last month or two — they were off to attend seminars on how to deal with Toronto’s relentless media pressure, how to cook a fat-free meal that maintains their conditioning while delivering the necessary fuel to keep their energy levels high during games, and to learn what the Maple Leafs organization expected of each of them.
The theme for the week was E Pluribus Unun (latin for “from many to one”), a constant reminder to the players that they must work together as a single cohesive unit to be effective. This motto was emphasised on Wednesday when the prospects headed to Beretta Organic Farms in King City, just north of Toronto, where they were divided into two groups and engaged in a series of team competitions. Jamie Aszmies, a Canadian competitor in the International Strongman competitions, was on hand to help teach them how to safely work in pairs to flip a 600-pound tractor tire and push 800-pound bales of hay around a field. The teams also faced one another in a tug of war and a variety of other events, with Team Grey narrowly defeating Team Blue on the final event. The losers had to serve lunch.
The group returned to the Lakeshore Lions Arena for the final two days of the camp. New Leafs coach Ron Wilson and several members of his staff watched their on-ice session on Thurday and then spent some time getting to know the young men in the classroom. General manager Cliff Fletcher also dropped in during several of the week’s on-ice practices, no doubt eagre to see several of the kids he had drafted less than a month ago in Ottawa.
As the camp broke up on Friday, players went off in their own separate ways. Several will be attending the Team Canada Junior camp later this summer, while others will be headed to the weight room to put their recent education to practice before heading off to their respective teams’ pre-season camps in September. Perhaps half of the group will return to Toronto for the Leafs’ rookie camp, with the most promising of them continuing on to the main camp.