MONTREAL – If the Toronto Maple Leafs lack leadership and grit, Brad May says he’ll do what he can to provide it.
“I’ve been able to wear different hats for many years on different teams, but first and foremost my role is to be an energy guy, a physical player and to bring a lot of life into the locker room,” he said. “They say I’m a good teammate and that makes me proud.”
The 37-year-old left-winger was all smiles as he joined his new team at the Bell Centre, where the Leafs were to take on the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. Only a handful of players took part in the game-day skate, but May was one of them, even if his legs were still stiff from the trip.
The Toronto native, who has taken jersey No. 10, was traded to the Leafs on Wednesday by the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional 2010 sixth-round draft pick.
He had a birthday dinner for his 13-year-old son Tyler on Wednesday night, then took an overnight flight to Montreal.
“It was quite the shock,” said May, who won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. “I was playing on a pretty good team there in Anaheim.
“I had a wonderful experience there and I leave with great memories, but I’m really excited to come to Toronto. I’m coming back home.”
New Leafs general manager Brian Burke’s first deal was to reach back to his former club in Anaheim and grab May, a grinding forward with an upbeat personality who he hopes will add some sandpaper and breathe some life into his slumping team.
The move came after a lacklustre 4-2 loss at home to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, the Leafs’ fifth defeat in seven games.
May’s new teammates were glad to have him, saying he is the type of player the team needed. May never scored a lot – his career season was 18 goals and 45 points in 1993-’94 and he has only 14 goals in his last six seasons. But he plays hard, likes to hit and isn’t shy about fighting.
“He’s a leader,” said defenceman Tomas Kaberle. “He’s a tough guy and he’s been around.
“I’m sure he’ll be great in the dressing room.”
It’s the third time Burke has acquired May for one of his teams, having done it in 1998 when the Vancouver Canucks got him from Buffalo and in 2007 when Anaheim picked him up from Colorado, where he had signed as a free agent in 2005.
“Let’s get one thing clear – he’s traded for me three times, but he’s also traded me twice,” May said with a laugh. “Brian has been clearly a real supporter of mine and I like to think I’ve been able to perform well for him, too.
“He’s a great man. He’s a player’s GM. He’s an honest, up-front, tough man and he sometimes tells you what you don’t want to hear, because it’s the truth. As a player, you really appreciate that.”
A concern was that, when he was in a second stint with Vancouver from 2002 to 2004, May was quoted as saying there was “definitely a bounty” on Colorado forward Steve Moore after an open-ice hit levelled Canucks star Markus Naslund, and that it was “definitely going to be fun when we get him.”
Little did May know that then-teammate Todd Bertuzzi would drive Moore to the ice from behind in a vicious attack that ended the Avalanche forward’s career and led to a long suspension for Bertuzzi and a lawsuit.
With the Leafs, May will be playing with Moore’s brother, Dominic. He was ready for the question.
“Actually I’m excited to be a teammate on the Toronto Maple Leafs with Dominic and I’m excited for this opportunity to come back home,” May said. “It’s really not an issue at all – and it shouldn’t be.”
What excites May most is the chance to play regularly.
He had no goals and five assists in only 20 games for Anaheim this season, but likely will be an everyday player in Toronto. He needs 37 games to reach 1,000 in his career, which began in 1991-’92 with the Sabres.
“I never set out to play 1,000 games, but it’s right here in front of me,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of injuries in the last couple of years and that slowed me down to get there.
“That’s a huge milestone. The guys who have done it all claim it was a very proud evening for them, so it’s something I want to achieve.”
For now, however, his tasks are more basic, like getting some warmer clothes after spending the last two winters in sunny Anaheim.
“I don’t own a pair of boots,” he said. “I had to go deep into a box to find a pair of gloves.
“I don’t have a toque yet. Those are the things I need.”