Nfld. & Labrador

Leafs — some freshly screeched in — head to Ottawa as N.L. training camp wraps up

Between locking down a star forward and kissing the cod, the NHL's visit to the Rock didn't stop for a moment.

Marner deal, preseason opener and lots of cod-kissing among highlights for hockey team

Leafs coach Mike Babcock pared down the roster over the team's weeklong stint in Newfoundland. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

After spending nearly a week in Newfoundland and Labrador ramping up for a new season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are headed back to the mainland.

The NHL team's training camp saw more than 75 players descend on the Avalon Peninsula, with coach Mike Babcock whittling away at the preseason roster during an intensive weekend of open practices.

"Everybody's a work in progress," Babcock told the press after the team's last practice Wednesday.

"I'm trying to give everybody an opportunity to get a job," he said, adding individual performance was scrutinized over the course of the camp, with some of those who suited up over the weekend sent back to the minors.

Those Leafs hopefuls could still get a call in the coming season, he said.

"In the end, you still had a chance to make an impression — that doesn't mean you don't get to come back."

Loss to Senators

The team also worked out some of the kinks that prevented them from winning Tuesday's preseason opener against the Ottawa Senators.

The Leafs walked away from the soldout Mile One Centre game with a 3-1 loss.

 "I don't think we were quick enough.… We tried to clean up lots of things here today," Babcock said.

The team has another shot at tonight's game in Ottawa.

Mitch Marner garnered the praise of the Leafs coach Wednesday. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Notable last night was the A on forward Mitch Marner's jersey, indicating the 22-year-old had been handed a leadership role this season.

"The way he plays, he's leading anyway," Babcock said, pointing to Marner's "energy and enthusiasm" on the ice.

Marner led the Leafs in points last season and recently locked down a $65-million, six-year contract with the team.

Babcock hinted he won't be naming a captain until the regular season kicks off Oct. 2.

Tyson Barrie played his first game in a Leafs sweater Tuesday night. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

New Leafs like Tyson Barrie shared the ice with emerging Leafs stars during their Newfoundland stint.

"I'm new to the Leafs and I know they had a big following, but I didn't know how far that extended," Barrie said.

He played his first game for the blue and white in front of the packed stands Tuesday night.

"To see the support they get out here in Newfoundland, it's pretty special."

Old hands and new faces alike also shared a few traditional Newfoundland experiences, like kissing the cod at a Saturday night screech-in, learning some local slang and heading out to sea.

"It's a different way of life out here," Barrie said.

"I'm coming back … maybe for a little more George Street action," he joked.

Marner himself missed some of the off-ice action, arriving late to camp due to the timing of his contract renewal.

He says he narrowly escaped a fishy encounter.

"I didn't get to do — what was it, screech-in thing? You kissed it," he said, nodding to a teammate.

But while Marner may not have secured his status as an honorary Newfoundlander, the sheer volume of Leafs mania on the island — which saw fans often lining up overnight to nab free tickets to the weekend practices — didn't escape him.

"I can see the passion of the fans down here," Marner said. "I think the Growlers are in good hands."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Katie Breen

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