Move over, Detroit. Turns out, coach Mike Babcock has discovered the true Hockeytown.
Babcock has won a Stanley Cup, two Olympic gold medals, a world junior gold medal, a world hockey championship, a World Cup of Hockey title and a CIS University Cup, but until now had never experienced anything like this.
“It’s been an exciting year,” says the Maple Leafs coach, shortly after his team was eliminated from the post-season on Sunday. “I was telling someone the other day, ‘if you’re not from Toronto and you come to Toronto, you have no idea how spectacular it is.’”
Leafs Nation has set the standard.
“If you’re a good player and you like winning, this is the best place you could ever play. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Babcock said. “From you people, the media coverage, the fan base, to the love of the team, it is like nothing you’ve ever seen.”
It was music to Mayor John Tory’s ears.
“What a fabulous attitude that is from our coach. And you can just tell from how he acts and what he says that he sees the intense laser-like focus on hockey here - by the media and the fans - as an opportunity, not a curse,” said Tory. “This is the world capital of hockey.”
It was almost like Babcock was signalling free agents to come here. Either way, it’s not often you hear so many positives about playing hockey in Toronto. Some relish the stage in the big show and some shy from it. Babcock, who has experienced ‘Hockeytown’ Detroit, Vancouver and Sochi, is embracing Toronto.
“It’s fantastic,” he said.
So is he. Even though he keeps it quiet, this classy man meets with a sick child like he did in this series with 11-year-old Joshua Landriault - fresh off brain surgery - at every game in Toronto. With no fanfare.
True, there’s no place better than playing in Toronto. Part of that is because of the coach.
Now about that small task of bringing home the Stanley Cup.