Sports Bruce Arthur: John Tavares did what others wouldn’t and came home to the Toronto Maple Leafs

15:02  02 july  2018
15:02  02 july  2018 Source:   thestar.com

Bruce Arthur: Joining Maple Leafs would be John Tavares’ boldest move

  Bruce Arthur: Joining Maple Leafs would be John Tavares’ boldest move If you were John Tavares you would have a big decision to make, a rare decision. You are in a position to truly take control of your career, and of your life. You are blessed with a rare talent, and everyone has known since you were a kid. You were different. You were escorted into major junior a year early, though in fairness, you played a little later than Bobby Orr did. You have played for Canada.You were a No. 1 pick, a notch below the truly generational kids but still, a star. Since you entered the league in 2009 you are fourth in goals scored, behind only Alexander Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, and Sidney Crosby.

Bruce Arthur : John Tavares did what others wouldn ’ t and came home to the Toronto Maple Leafs . Boys grow up dreaming of playing for the Leafs , but the best ones almost never do , writes Bruce Arthur .

Toronto Maple Leafs . SIMMONS: Leafs ' pitch to Tavares ? Come home to win the Cup. The best way for Kyle Dubas to make a splash as general manager of the Maple Leafs — sign John Tavares as a free agent.


The Toronto Maple Leafs are the biggest hockey franchise in the world in every way but accomplishment; they are loved despite themselves, most of all.

Boys grow up dreaming of playing for the Leafs, but the best ones almost never do. Wayne Gretzky never came home. Eric Lindros did, but only after he had been broken. Steven Stamkos wondered: he sat down, listened to the pitch and fled back to Florida as fast as he could.

On Sunday, John Tavares left the vagabond semi-obscurity of the New York Islanders to sign a seven-year, $77-million (U.S.) deal to play in Toronto. Star players almost never leave on their own in the NHL and Toronto boys almost never come home. Tavares, 27, did both.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed John Tavares . After what seems like decades of speculation, billions of words written, and the longest deliberation in the history of deliberations, John Tavares has chosen to come home to the Toronto Maple Leafs .

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“You get so connected and your roots get so deep in one place where I’d been, on Long Island,” said Tavares. “You go in there as a 19-year-old and it becomes a part of you, such a big part of your life, that it was really going to take something special, I felt like, to pull me out.”

He found something that did. Tavares was a Mississauga child prodigy, the product of second-generation immigrants from Poland and Portugal. He was a No. 1 pick and was fifth in the league in goal scoring since entering the league in 2009.

But the Islanders are a semihomeless failure of a franchise, even with former Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello now in charge. The Leafs were one of six teams pursuing Tavares and had gone through this with Stamkos two years earlier. They didn’t bring the mayor and the CEO of Canadian Tire this time. They just sold what they had: young talent, a Hall of Fame coach, a window to win a Stanley Cup that Tavares believes stretches over the seven years of the deal.

John Tavares watch: NHL's top free-agent prize signs with Maple Leafs

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The John Tavares sweepstakes are all over, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have landed the superstar center on a seven year contract for 77 million. David Pagnotta got the scoop, and revealed first that Tavares would be coming to his home town of Toronto .

John Tavares is heading home . The former Islanders franchise center is signing a seven-year contract with an average annual value of million with the Toronto Maple Leafs , the team he grew up rooting for.

“I think for me the key was, we had to make this about hockey,” said general manager Kyle Dubas. “Not about anything else.”

“I think there was a quiet confidence,” said team president Brendan Shanahan, who gave Dubas credit for directing the recruiting pitch and for his impressive work in the face-to-face meeting last week. “We had a good story to tell.”

John Tavares tweeted this photo of himself as a kid, sleeping under Maple Leafs sheets, about two decades before signing with the club on Canada Day.© Provided by Toronto Star John Tavares tweeted this photo of himself as a kid, sleeping under Maple Leafs sheets, about two decades before signing with the club on Canada Day.

It’s better now. Tavares gives the Leafs three of the eight centres in the league who have scored at least 60 goals over the past two seasons, along with Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri. Tavares will play with winger Mitch Marner, who played at a 92-point pace once he was elevated to the second line last year with Kadri and who, along with Matthews, recruited Tavares.

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TORONTO — After one of the most-watched courtships in NHL history, the Toronto Maple Leafs got the answer they were hoping for Sunday. John Tavares is coming home . The centre signed with the Leafs as free agency opened

And he may not even want to play under the Toronto spotlight. But if he does , the Maple Leafs could afford him. The Leafs are in a great position with 3 great home grown players who at least 2 would be paid far less then Tavares and I’m not a fan of that.

And Marner is the Thornhill kid who is in the Leafs game introduction video saying, as a bowl-cut-haired child, that he wanted to play for the Leafs when he grew up. So many local pros have stayed away because the team stunk, or because the team was cheap or stupid, or because they didn’t want to deal with the attention, the expectations, the pressure. The Leafs have changed and Tavares wasn’t afraid.

“As a kid cheering for the Leafs growing up … you start to go through that feeling again, once I went through the interview process,” said Tavares. “And it was an opportunity. It was once in a lifetime, I felt like. And I’m just like, why don’t you just go out there and grab it, take your best shot at it and enjoy it?”

The Leafs could have sold hometown nostalgia. Shanahan grew up in Etobicoke, played lacrosse over a high school summer with Tavares’s legendary uncle by the same name, and Shanahan’s older brother Brian won five Mann Cups with that John Tavares. Shanahan also had a Hall of Fame NHL career that included Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold medal, and once told this newspaper that winning here would still mean more to him than anything he ever did as a player.

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The decision is in: John Tavares has chosen the Toronto Maple Leafs , with the deal to be announced shortly, MLHS has learned. Not bad for the first player acquisition of the Kyle Dubas era. The quote that immediately comes to mind is Mike Babcock calling his shot after joining the organization back in May

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But that emotional pull wasn’t the focus. Tavares — known for so long for his emotionless front — supplied that part himself. He says some of his earliest memories are Leafs memories, watching on the couch with his dad. He still agonized over this and when he announced it he tweeted out, “not everyday you can live your. childhood dreams,” with a picture of himself as a child, asleep in Leafs sheets. The wooden man opened up.

“I would say the last seven days (were that),” said Tavares. “Some heavy feelings, some heavy emotions.”

“I’d never seen the photo he tweeted out today,” said Shanahan. “For any kid to come here, they have to feel there’s an opportunity to have success.”

That’s what has happened here. The Leafs have been a joke for most of 50 years and their fans loved them anyway, even when it was ridiculous, when it was hard. And some of those people grew up to be NHL stars and still had nothing to do with their childhood love. Gretzky, Shanahan, Stamkos, more. It wasn’t worth it. It was like the kids from small towns who never go back. Best to chase different dreams, somewhere better.

Well, John Tavares believes these Leafs can win a Stanley Cup in the next seven years, and he’s right. They will face hard salary cap choices, and the defence may need work, and hockey is a roulette wheel even when you’re great.

But maybe it wasn’t the pressure or the noise that kept people away. Maybe all the Leafs had to do was build a program that was worth it, that lived up to what people wanted the Leafs to be, back when they were kids. John Tavares left and then he came home.

Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur

Report: Mark Hunter a possibility to join Islanders' front office .
There could be a reunion brewing on Long Island, as former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant general manager Mark Hunter might join Lou Lamoriello in the New York Islanders' front office, reports Arthur Staple of The Athletic. It's unknown what role Hunter may have, adds Staple, but the 55-year-old also served as head of the scouting department during his tenure with the Leafs. Shortly after Toronto chose Kyle Dubas to take over Lamoriello's role as GM, Hunter, who was also in the running for the job, left the team. However, his agreement with the Maple Leafs prevents him from joining a new team until July 15.

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