Tuesday, August 9, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – TORONTO

When Mekkar and his team arrived at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada they were initially directed down a pathway to the visitor’s dressing room. He noticed along this corridor were pictures of past star players of the homeside. There were also quite a few plaques and lists showing the different accomplishments and awards involving various Maple Leaf players throughout the years.

The skeptical youngster that he is saw this as a type of tactic to try to throw the Selects squad off of their game. Furthermore, it was just basically to get inside their heads prior to gametime. Mekkar concluded that this was just another intimidation endeavor but carried out in a psychological way. He was not affected by it because he could see through the tactic, but figured that some of the other Selects’ might be.

Anyway, Mekkar was excited to play against one of his heroes, Borje “The King” Salming. Despite realizing that due to both of their positions as defensemen and the natural flow of the match, they would come into direct contact with each other very little, if at all. Plus, Mekkar’s on ice minutes were sharply reduced due to injury.

Many of the Selects’ members observed the rabid parts of the crowd as they came onto the ice for the normal pre-game warmup ritual. It was a larger crowd than almost anywhere back home, but still overall less rowdy. Mekkar didn’t hear songs directed toward individual players like his home rink nor see large flags and banners waving in the stands. Here was tame in comparison but the sheer mass of people in the arena energized the home team with their pockets of exuberance.

Mekkar had trained himself long ago to accept any cheering or positive reinforcement and incorporate it as his own, no matter whom it was directed at, the source or location. This would always increase the confidence in Mekkar. Lasse and Alf deemed it as more like cockiness which Mekkar was not undersupplied. This mindset was beneficial for Mekkar’s on ice performances during the actual games. He said this attitude made him more successful.

The Leafs sported a starting lineup that could rival that very best clubs in the world. However, their troubles stemmed from bad management and in the lack of quality depth on the roster departments. Who Toronto sent over the boards to start the match was impressive. Lanny McDonald up front with Darryl Sittler centering the first line and Left Wing Dave “Tiger” Williams protecting everyone’s back. On the back line were Salming and Ian Turnbull with Mike Palmateer in goal. [Wikipedia] Formidable indeed thought Mekkar and his teammates. When the top Toronto unit was on the ice they totally controlled the pay and dictated the pace, which the Selects were unable to counteract.

As the Selects’ coaching staff behind the bench accepted this and desired their team to push the tempo when the other Leaf lines were on the ice to balance it all out. The game did not accurately reflect the dominance in the box score in a 4-2 Maple Leaf win. Mekkar felt fortunate to avoid a blowout. The Selects only took one minor penalty and negated that opportunity by keeping Toronto from converting their powerplay. Guess who took the penalty? Yes, it was Mekkar! The netminding for the visitors on this night was excellent and helped to keep the match from being a runaway for the hosts. As a result, the Far North Native stated, “A hot goalie can make up for the rest of the team’s mistakes.” Nevertheless, the cynical Mekkar thought that the Leafs were sort of toying with his travelling team.

The best part of the night for Mekkar was the post game brief chat with Salming, who is one of his hockey role models. He did try to pick to pick the classy Borje’s mind a bit. However, there was just so much information and experience there. Salming’s vast resource knowledge was overwhelming to the young arctic teen and it was hard to grasp, even a small bit of it.