The Toronto Maple Leafs Take Us to Newfoundland
By Brian Papineau, Head Equipment Manager, Toronto Maple Leafs
Why did the organization choose Newfoundland for their training camp location?
With our ECHL team (Newfoundland Growlers) based in St. John?s and the older AHL affiliation (St. John?s Maple Leafs from 1991-2005), the organization decided it was best to hold training camp there.
Is this the first time your team has held their training camp off-site?
Every year, the Maple Leafs like to hold training camp off-site to give the many fans from all over a chance to watch up close as the team prepares for another season. We have traveled to Halifax, NS twice and to Niagara Falls, ON as well. It also allows the players a chance to get away from our normal surroundings that we spend so much time at during the season and allows them to interact with the community as well as take in the sites and do some team bonding.
How much time did you have to prepare?
Originally, two members of our organization traveled to St. John?s 10 months prior to see the possibilities of holding training camp there. They viewed arena options and hotels and then about 6 or 7 of our staff from different departments went for a site visit around August 1st and that was a chance to meet some of the key contacts at the arenas, hotels, restaurants as well as the head of all the volunteers. We went through logistics and what our needs would be when we arrived in St. John?s.
What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was getting everything out there and making sure that we had enough room on the two chartered planes that we flew on. We pre-shipped many supplies like Gatorade and medical supplies early to free up space on the aircraft. We also ordered some of our supplies (water, tape and pucks) to be shipped directly to St. John?s so that we didn?t have to worry about taking it with us. The day we left, we had our Media Day in Toronto at our practice facility, so we had players wear their practice gear for the Media portion so that we had all the game gear packed ahead of time so that we could pre-load the planes and allow for a timely departure.
Would you do anything different having gone thru it?
I think everything went smooth for the most part as we spent the first three days at the practice facility in Paradise, NL and then moved into Mile One Stadium for three days and an exhibition game against the Ottawa Senators. Our day to day schedule is pretty much the same the past five years, so we kind of know what to expect and that makes planning easier while away.
What surprised you most about Newfoundland?
We have been to Newfoundland a few times over the years and we held a small portion of our training camp there back in 2001 during 9/11. You hear how wonderful and friendly the people are and how much they love their hockey and that was shown daily. The hockey office staff and trainers (Neil Davidson and Andrew Koch) from the Growlers were great hosts and took care of many details leading up to training camp. It also never hurts to have David Roper from Mount Pearl, NL on staff with the Maple Leafs. It didn?t matter what was needed, Ropes got it done.
Did you have a chance to tour Newfoundland?
As I mentioned earlier, we did a site visit previously so I was able to tour around the area and I didn?t realize how beautiful St. John?s is and the many attractions it has to offer. The people, the food and the sites were outstanding.
What advice would you give to an Equipment Manager who?s team is holding their training camp off-site for the first time?
I think the biggest thing is go out ahead of time and check out the arena and hotel and meet the people that you will be dealing with. They along with volunteers will help you in so many ways. Take pictures of your locker rooms and working environment and think about the electrical requirements, the heat and drying of equipment, laundry facilities and more that will be needed to ensure that camp runs smoothly.
Photos courtesy of Brian Papineau.