By Stan Smith

The first competitive game of the season for anyone involved with the Toronto Maple Leafs happened Thursday afternoon as the Traverse City Prospects Tournament kicked off. The Maple Leafs’ prospects took on the Columbus Blue Jackets prospects. 

To me, this is the official kickoff of the season and the first opportunity to write about something that happened on the ice. Alas, due to a lack of coverage of the game, there is very little to report.  

Related: What If You Were The Maple Leafs GM or Head Coach?

It Was a Strange Game Because of the Ice Surface

One unusual aspect of the game was it was played in two different rinks.  While it may have happened before somewhere in the history of the sport, I don’t know of ever seeing or hearing about a game that started in one rink and finished in another. Technically it was in one arena as the complex the game was played in has two different ice surfaces. 

Eight minutes into the game, it was discovered there was a problem with the ice surface the game started on. They sent the players back to their locker rooms while they figured out what to do. After a bit of a delay, they announced the remaining 52 minutes of the game would be played on another ice surface. They then broke up the rest of the game into two 26-minute periods. 

As Expected, The Blue Jackets’ Prospects Won

As for the game itself, it ended pretty much as expected. The Blue Jackets walked away with a 7-3 win. Why was that expected? The Columbus prospect team had four first-round picks playing in the game and five players who played at least one NHL game last season. The Maple Leafs had one first-round pick, Easton Cowan from the 2023 draft. They had one player who played in the NHL last season, Matthews Knies. 

Getting back to the lack of coverage of the game the only video I can find was a 22-second highlight video from Sportsnet. This shows an ice-level view of two of the Maple Leafs’ goals.  

I was able to find that Ryan Tverberg (7th-round pick 2020), Max Ellis (Undrafted), and defenseman Topi Niemela (3rd-round pick 2020) scored the three Maple Leafs’ goals. Matthews Knies (2nd-round pick 2021) had an assist. Luke Cavallin (Undrafted) was in goal for all seven Columbus goals. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Knies Makes Huge Impression on Easton Cowan

Some Video of After-Game Interviews Is Available

There is some postgame video available on the Maple Leafs’ website with interviews of new Toronto Marlies’ coach John Gruden, who is behind the bench for this tournament, as well as Max Ellis, William Villeneuve, and Fraser Minton.  

The link to all of those interviews is here  

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The Maple Leafs Prospects Play Two-More Games

The Maple Leafs’ prospects play two more games in the tournament, Friday at 6:30 PM versus the Dallas Stars prospects and Sunday at 2:00 PM when they take on the host Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are streaming all of their games so hopefully, it will be accessible in Canada as well. 

There was one comment by Gruden that jumped out at me in his interview. When asked about the purpose of these games he replied “It is a starting point. We got some good videos. We can teach from those moments. That is what we will do.”

 I have to say it was great someone got some “Good Video.” It would have been nice if we, as fans, got some good videos to watch. 

Are the Maple Leafs Missing a Big Opportunity?

On that note, I wonder if the Maple Leafs are missing out on an opportunity here. I do not know of the logistics of setting up something like the Traverse City event. Nor do I know what teams would be available if the Maple Leafs were to run their own show. We do know that Buffalo also runs a tournament. They have teams from Ottawa, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Boston, New Jersey, and of course Buffalo in the event. 

If it were feasible for the Maple Leafs to run their own event, they would have world-class rinks in which to host the event. They could have much more extensive television coverage. The games would be a chance for Maple Leafs fans to have access to live hockey for a fraction of the price of a regular, or even a preseason game. There would be an economic spinoff for the city from the visiting teams. Last, but not least, it would also give us hockey “geeks” a lot more to write about. 

Hopefully, I will have more to report about the game against the Dallas Stars tonight.

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