Maple Leafs notes: Don’t anger the weather gods

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HAMILTON — As the Maple Leafs began practice here late Saturday, winds whipped the light snow, sillouetted by TV lights that threw long player shadows on the ice at Tim Hortons Field.

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“Reminds me of Phoenix a little bit,” Sun Belter Auston Matthews joked about the elements “It was tough; the wind and the snow when things got going. It could probably change and the weather should be better tomorrow (forecast around the freezing mark). We’ll just have to adjust.”

That goes for both the Leafs and Buffalo Sabers in unfamiliar conditions of the 4 pm Heritage Classic, while 24,000 will be in the stands on three sides of the CFL stadium.

“The whole point of our skateboarding was getting used to the visual effect,” said Matthews’ linemate Mitch Marner. “Your first reaction was ‘holy crap, it’s cold’. But it’s always cool to be outdoors and it’s always a different vibe for fans.”

Players could feel the likes bending their sticks, as they shot and passed and had their velocity slowed dramatically. One Saber commented that back checking felt like he was skating uphill.

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They practiced with extra layers, turtlenecks or tried fewer layers as they don’t expect to sweat much. Goalies Petr Mrazek of the Leafs and Buffalo’s Craig Anderson will have the hardest time staying warm if there’s extended action in one end.

The Sabers went out first, several with black cork dabbed under their yes to cut down the sun and the lights’ glare.

“The first ‘wow factor’ for me was the cold,” said Buffalo coach Don Granato. “If the wind (Sunday) is like today, it will be hard. But ice conditions were exceptional and it was great to watch our guys have fun.”


Marner has been to Tim Hortons as a CFL spectator for the Boatmen.

“I’m sure this building should be rocking tomorrow,” he said. “It’s always a good one when the Tiger-Cats play the Argos. Usually the Argos win.

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One end of the field opens to a residential neighborhood, which newcomers to the city we were amazed by. But it will be challenging for the team shooting in that direction to get their bearings with no crowd as a back drop.


It feels like Dave Andreychuk should be involved here somewhere, though he does work for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Hall Of Famer was born in Hamilton, played more than 11 seasons in Buffalo and was traded to Toronto, where he split part of one 50-goal season and became the last Leaf to do it in a full year (54 in 1993-94 ).

That should hold at least a few more days with Matthews at 44 and climbing. It was 28 years ago Saturday that Andreychuk’s 49th goal passed Frank Mahovlich’s record of 49 by a Toronto left winger. Old Mountain Arena here was re-named for Andreychuk.

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Anderson was looking forward to the anthems and what’s expected to be a combined US-Canadian Forces fly-over … Granato made sure Sabers with season ending injuries such as Drake Caggiula were included in the post-practice center ice team photo … Toronto captain John Tavares had his parents, wife. in-laws and two kids on hand, with his toddlers taking part in the family skate before the cold got too much … Marie-Philip Poulin and the gold medal Canadian women’s Olympic team will be honored at Sunday’s game … While the Leafs grumbled about the foul on Matthews not getting called Thursday in overtime, Christian Fischer of the Coyotes missed Saturday’s game in Boston with an upper body injury, likely from the unpenalized cross check of Justin Holl.

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