Spezza, Marner of the Maple Leafs, wins a mad victory and supports the fight against COVID-19


The 2019-2020 Toronto Maple Leafs did not lack top-flight offensive performance, but none flew higher than the eight-goal flurry they dropped on the Carolina Hurricanes at the dawn of the Christmas break of the season.

It was, of course, far from being a clinic, with Carolina adding six goals overnight, the accumulation of goal frenzy from both teams constituting one of the most exciting slopes of the campaign.

Mitch Marner, Jason Spezza and head coaches Sheldon Keefe and Rod Brind’Amour joined the Sports Watch NHL Rewind Watch Party on Saturday, reliving that crazy night of December 2019 with David Amber, Jeff Marek and Steve Dangle. The Sportsnet Watch Party team was also joined by special guests Greg Millen, Abigail Dove and Colby Armstrong.

Here are some of the highlights from the evening’s discussion:

“It was one of those nights”

One of the most memorable moments of this December 23rd tilt came just after halfway through the third, when Auston Matthews descended the right wing, spun, threw the puck onto the ice and saw the co – newly hit teammate Mitch Marner bury the one – timer with a flourish.

Although he watched the seasoned striker on this highlight – which caused an explosive comeback from the home team – Marner remembers being nervous as the puck headed towards him from n ° 34.

“I was just happy to be on the other side to mark that one – I was nervous when it came to me,” Marner told Amber, Marek and Dangle with a chuckle. “I was nervous because I don’t take a lot of unique time and as everyone knows, they don’t go well when I do them. So when it came to me, I really wanted to make sure I touched it. “

The goal sparked a four-goal explosion from Toronto that recovered the lead and ultimately a memorable “W” overnight. Looking back, Marner says it was just one of those games, where it seemed like they could go on forever.

“Some nights, when you leave, every time you step on this ice, you feel like you can keep skating, keep going. It looks like your energy continues to go on. It was one of those nights, “he told the Watch Party team. “… As a line, we just kept looking at Sheldon, letting him know that we are good to go back on this ice to try to create something else.

“I felt like a little child over there. The two hour game, for whatever reason, I always do well in these afternoon games – it makes me feel like I’m back as a kid playing, or in the League Ontario. I still love them and I had a lot of energy for this one. This third period, I felt like I could keep going out on the ice. “

Talent Art Ross, Selke state of mind

The 8-6 victory over Caroline ranked as the best game in Marner’s 2019-20 campaign, with the winger scoring five points (two goals, three assists) that evening. But despite the prolific evening and a recent 94-point campaign, which make him look like a potential candidate for Art Ross a few seasons of this great career, Marner is eyeing a different individual award, if any.

“I don’t think scoring a race – I mean, it would be great to win that. The one I’ve always really thought about and set a goal on is the Selke, the two-way player [award], ” he said. “I think this is something I always want my name to be part of and my name to be discussed. This one has a lot of special players who do a lot at both ends of the ice. It’s something that would be great to have your name too.

“But whatever type of award you win has a lot to do with the guys you play with every night, and with a lot of the guys you’ve played with since game 1.”

“It takes a lot of courage to be on this front line right now”

While the world of hockey remains on hiatus, waiting for a potential return to normal, front line personnel around the world are embarking on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marner’s own charity, the Marner Assist Fund, has so far raised more than $ 18,000 to help front-line workers, and the Markham, Ontario native says he remains committed to doing everything that he can to help in this fight.

“We are all trying to make sure that these frontline workers get what they need and get what they need. If it’s meals, that’s it, if it’s something else, it’s trying to get them, “he said. “It takes a lot of courage to be on this front line right now, and it’s hard to pay back what they’re doing. … You are speechless. It’s crazy how much effort they put in, how many hours a week they put in, it takes a lot of courage.

“All we can say is” Thank you “for the moment, and try to help yourself as best we can. “

Hometown hero

One of the most subtly impactful moments of the evening occurred in the opening seconds, when Toronto-born Jason Spezza took the opening game alongside John Tavares and Ilya Mikheyev, getting a chance to start the evening on the front line with his family.

It was a gesture from head coach Sheldon Keefe who certainly did not go unnoticed by the veteran pivot.

“My children don’t get a chance to play many games – they have to go to bed early, at school the next morning. So it was an afternoon game, just before Christmas, and Keefer knew my kids were going to be there, and he gave me the start. I have to admit I was pretty excited – I was playing on the fourth line and all of a sudden I started with JT and Mikhy, “Spezza told Amber, Marek and Dangle.

“… we played three games in four nights this weekend and he said,” Okay, you’re going to play two of the three, which one do you want to play? And I said, “Well, it doesn’t really matter, but I would really love to play this afternoon game because my kids are coming. “… It was a nice touch of course, because I try to convince my kids that I play from time to time and they don’t always believe me.”

Keefe, who joined the Watch Party later that evening, said the value of those moments between coach and player was not lost on him.

“I think it is important as a coach to recognize these things and as an organization to recognize these moments for your players,” he said. “And other moments that have meaning such as that which arises for veteran players because they have been around, and different things arise for them. It was an easy task.

“… In terms of the draw, it was just between him and JT. … They made this change by themselves, which they were free to do, but I wanted to give him this chance to start. “

“I feel like I can really identify with these guys”

Now with his third NHL club after nearly two decades in the big leagues, Spezza was once right where young Marner and Matthews are today – first talent, young talent in the game, choice of lottery and seasons of 90 points on a Canadian market just a few years in his career.

The opportunity to mentor the young Leafs freaks is one he takes seriously, he says, and is often the top priority for 36-year-olds.

“I’m probably spending more time than you think, because I feel like I can really relate to these guys, and I want to help them progress and learn their lessons perhaps faster than I could. Said Spezza. “I had great veteran guys, I remember all those guys who helped me. I remember exactly what they did and these little moments go a long way. So I take this role very seriously and I love talented young guys because I know I was there once.

“I spend a lot of time talking with my wife and trying to figure out how to reach these guys, to explain to them how special the time they are going through is, really, you blink and it’s left. It’s a cool moment in their game, and I think that’s what makes this team so exciting. “

“He was bawling his eyes, because he heard the news”

Along with the three members of the Leafs organization who participated in this wild game on December 23, Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour also participated in the Watch Party festivities.

Among the discussions on the 14-goal affair, the longtime coach cane joined Amber, Marek and Dangle to reflect the NHL hiatus, Carolina’s promising young nucleus and perhaps the most The eventful history of his team’s recent history – the A $ 42.27 million Canadian offering signed by Hurricane superstar Sebastian Aho in July.

Although outside, the Aho episode seemed like a hectic time for the organization, Brind’Amour said things were much cooler and gathered behind closed doors.

“I was with the owner at the time in our office, and he knew it was going to happen. And he says, “This is crazy. Okay, how are we going to handle this? We obviously sign Aho – it’s a question of, do we do it now or let it marinate? “He anticipated what it might look like, right, and create drama,” said Brind’Amour. “It wasn’t a decision-making – it actually made his life easier because they were actually negotiating a contract at the time, so it made it easier – ‘Okay, it’s done, we know the number and now it’s just a matter of calculating IT out. ‘ “

The biggest problem for the organization was how the movement was perceived by the fan base, he said.

“When the news came out, they thought he was gone. My son, my eight-year-old boy, is Aho’s biggest fan – he was roaring because he heard the news. … I actually sent a video – I recorded it and sent it to [Aho] and I said, “Look, this is what you just caused in my house,” said the coach laughing.

“There was really no stress on our part, to be honest with you, but it was kind of fun to see how everyone was describing it for such a short time when everyone was wondering what was going to happen . “

Watch the full Watch Party below to hear the rest of Marner, Spezza, Keefe and Brind’Amour’s appearances at the NHL Rewind Watch Party, as well as Colby Armstrong, Greg Millen, Abigail Dove.


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