Members of the Leafs ride the subway to open practice
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, February 7, 2019 12:33PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 7, 2019 2:45PM EST
With three consecutive wins, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been riding a hot streak lately, and on Thursday afternoon they rode something else – the subway.
More than a half-dozen members of the team, plus Head Coach Mike Babcock, hopped on the subway at Union Station in full gear shortly after 11 a.m. in order to head to a public practice at Nathan Phillips Square.
The players took the subway to Osgoode Station and then walked the rest of the way to Nathan Phillips Square, creating quite a spectacle.
Once at Nathan Phillips Square, they met up with the rest of their teammates who had taken a team bus and hit the ice for a 30-minute practice.
“I take the subway a bunch. Growing up I took it a bunch, going to Leafs games I would take it. It is best way to beat traffic,” Toronto-born left winger Zach Hyman told reporters following the practice. “Riding it in uniform was obviously a little different but it was fun.”
“The subway ride was awesome. I think we surprised some people. A couple people hopping on with their heads down picked their head up and they were shocked,” added Leafs forward Connor Brown. “It’s cool to do something different and interact with the fans.”
The Maple Leafs hold an outdoor practice somewhere in the city each winter but this is their first time at Nathan Phillips Square.
Hundreds of fans showed up for the occasion, filling temporary bleachers that were set up on the south side of the rink.
“There was a little bit on the line so obviously juices got going,” Leafs centre John Tavares said, explaining that Babcock had decided to let the winners of a three-on-three tournament skip an upcoming morning skate. “Unfortunately I didn’t get it. I really wanted it. It was good competiveness out there.”
Tavares said that outdoor practices like the one held on Thursday afternoon “make you feel like a kid” and can relieve some of the monotony of a long NHL season.
For his part, Babcock said that the open practice presented a unique opportunity to bring the team to fans.
“It is very expensive (to go to games). Lots of people get to go to one game a year if they are lucky or they have to travel to other cities to see us, so something like this is special,” he said. “I thought the guys had a lot of joy out there today and had a lot of fun.”
The open practice was just part of a full-day of hockey events at Nathan Phillips Square. There was also a youth hockey clinic at the rink early Thursday morning, free warm beverages for fans and a game featuring a group of Maple Leaf alumni and city councillors.