Hopefully, Cecil McMann packed some extra clothes.
Not only did he fly from Alberta to see his boy Bobby’s NHL debut on Wednesday against the Nashville Predators – after Auston Matthews was scratched at least a game for an unspecified injury – he has been invited on the Maple Leafs’ fathers’ trip to Detroit and Boston.
“He’s in for a surprise when he lands,” McMann said following the morning skate when learning of the team’s generosity after his Dad was already in the air heading East.
Matthews had missed Tuesday’s practice and though the Rocket Richard Trophy winner was zipping around at the skate in apparent fine form, he was held back by coach Sheldon Keefe.
“Auston’s day-to-day, not too far away,” Keefe said. “We’ll see about (playing) tomorrow. It’s something that’s been lingering for a while.”
McMann was called up Tuesday after being named American Hockey League player of the week with six points in three games. He was projected to play fourth line right wing, among other lineup changes brought on by Matthews’ absence, which will see William Nylander and Pierre Engvall rotate at centre on a line with Michael Bunting.
Keefe did not want to mess with the chemistry of John Tavares’s troika, with Mitch Marner and Calle Jarnkrok.
McMann will be the first Leaf to wear No. 74.
The 26-year-old Colgate University grad had 15 points his past 17 games with the Marlies after signing a two-year entry-level contract in 2022. He gives the Leafs extra size as well.
“I think I always had that belief (to make the NHL). Sometimes, you have the doubt day-to-day, but if you stick to what you trust, it’s something I’ve wanted my whole life. I persevered with the grind, the workouts, the skates and trusted that eventually it would work out for me.”
The fathers’ trip was postponed the past couple of years by COVID-19 and before that, was altered to include a mothers-only trek and another one with personal mentors.
Many fathers came from Europe, such as Rasmus Sandin’s and Jarnkrok’s, and watched Wednesday’s skate at Scotiabank Arena, though it could not be arranged for goalie Ilya Samsonov’s to come from Russia.
Closer to home, Scarborough’s Bunting couldn’t wait to bring along Andy, who drives heavy street maintenance vehicles for the City of Toronto.
“This is his Stanley Cup, his Super Bowl,” said Michael. “He grew up a Leaf fan and now he’s going to be part of it.
“He has a lot of energy (watching a game), just like me. We have a little superstition that we don’t talk on game day, so it’s going to be weird having him around.”
Zach-Aston Reese’s father William was en route from Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning.
“We had a Dads trip with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pittsburgh’s farm team) and he was able to see my NHL debut, too.
“It’s definitely an incentive having them here. Moms, too. They all put so much time, money and investments into us playing as kids, all the driving and all the drama, too. You don’t notice that when you’re young.
“For them to come in and experience everything we do, it’s rewarding.”
NO STOPPING WEBER
There is good news with Predators broadcaster Pete Weber, who had successful surgery this week to reduce fluid intake to his brain. The condition had caused the 71-year-old Day One play-by-play man balance issues that resulted in some nasty falls.
Restricted to home games before the surgery, he is recovering and hopes to resume work in the coming weeks.
With Matt Murray slated to start in net Wednesday, Samsonov would face the Wings. Each man craves the assignment Saturday against the division-leading Bruins … Sandin has had a close-up of Nylander’s strong two-way play this season that has brought him league-wide attention. “He’s working so hard on his forecheck, his back check and putting that extra stride in. The skill he has, everyone knows about, but it’s the work ethic, helping out teammates and making it easier for the defencemen to play our games” … It was announced Wednesday that three Marlies, goalie Joseph Woll, defenceman Noel Hoefenmayer and forward Logan Shaw, have been selected for the AHL all-star game next month in Laval.
Leave A Comment