“Everybody is a winner in this,” Darryl Sittler, a community rep for the club for which he once starred, said in an interview following the news conference Tuesday.
The facility is to be completed in 2008 in the Lakeshore-Etobicoke neighbourhood. There will be one Olympic-sized and three NHL-sized ice surfaces, a spectator area for up to 4,000, close to 30,000 square feet of Leafs and Marlies training space, and medical and physiotherapy rooms.
“Toronto is a big city and the more ice surfaces you have the more opportunity kids get to participate and play,” said Sittler. “If you have a facility available to coaching and officiating clinics, it’s going to make everybody better, I think.
“We’re proud to be a part of it.”
Hockey Canada, which has headquarters in Calgary, will set up a regional office, and the Hockey Hall of Fame, running out of room at its downtown digs, will place its resource centre and archives in the Leafs’ facility.
Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said $175,000 of the Leafs’ funding has already been earmarked for national programs including injury reporting, scholarships for coaches and training of on-ice officials. Clinics will be held to promote skill development and improved officiating locally.
“This is going to be a regional centre for us that will be a great place to hang our hat,” said Nicholson. “In the future, we can do national junior camps, under-18 camps, women’s camps – that was a big part of this – and it’s going to be sledge hockey friendly so we can get our Paralympic team ready for tournaments.”
Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson sees the new facility as an “epicentre for the sport that caters to every level – from grassroots to high performance.”
“We aspire to make Leafs Nation Hockey Headquarters synonymous with hockey development and a successful global model – an intelligence centre that will set the standard for training and high performance in hockey worldwide,” said Ferguson.
Wendel Clark, another former Leafs star now working for the team as a goodwill ambassador, said the Leafs-Hockey Canada link will be beneficial for the sport.
“It’s about keeping hockey in the forefront in Canada,” said Clark. “The biggest (sport) in our country is hockey and this keeps it there.
“We know it’s a great sport in our country but you have to keep advancing it and keeping it in the forefront.”
It’s important for the Leafs, as one of the Original Six teams of the NHL, “to take a leadership role in hockey development,” added Ferguson.
“Given hockey’s changing landscape, it’s important we continue to support player development at all levels,” he said.
The $2 million is the single largest grant made to any organization by the Leafs Fund.