The Toronto Maple Leafs are taking more than just inspiration from their neighbors, the NBA champion Toronto Raptors, as they aim to capture the city’s first Stanley Cup since 1967; they’re taking one of their basketballs as well.
Head coach Mike Babcock introduced the ball — one of the in-game balls used by the Raptors in the NBA Finals last June — as the Leafs’ new ‘player of the game’ trophy to be awarded in the locker room after every win this season.
“We believe in here it’s our time,” Babcock told the locker room after the game. “That’s what I’ve been told by you guys. When I talked to you, I wrote it down over and over again — guys talking about that.”
For win number one, a 5-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 2, Babcock granted Auston Matthews the ball for his two-goal performance in the season opener.
“We want to hold the ball,” Babcock said before congratulating Matthews and his teammates on a “hell of a start.”
Matthews celebrated his intra-team award by dribbling through his legs at his stall in the locker room and rolling the ball around his arms, much to the rest of the room’s delight.
The Leafs visit the Columbus Blue Jackets for their second game of the season. We’ll see if another win grants Matthews the ball again or if another player steps up to the plate.
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