TORONTO – The Toronto Maple Leafs might not be playing into May, but a number of their players will be.
At least 10 members of the organization will be travelling to Slovakia to compete in the IIHF World Hockey Championship. That list includes Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn and James Reimer, who will wear a different coloured Maple Leaf.
“It’s an honour to be invited and to have that opportunity to represent Canada,” Phaneuf said Monday as the Leafs cleaned out their lockers and went through exit interviews. “Last time I was there it was in Moscow (in 2007) and we won. It was a lot of fun to be part of that tournament.
“I’m looking forward to going over there and trying to win a gold medal.”
Reimer began the season in the American Hockey League before making the most of an opportunity midway through the year and stealing the Leafs No. 1 job.
The native of Morweena, Man., was thrilled to get an invitation from Dave Nonis, Toronto’s senior vice-president of hockey operations, who is assembling the Canadian team.
“I couldn’t turn that one down,” said Reimer.
A fourth member of the team might also end up playing for Canada. Forward Clarke MacArthur is on standby and expects to hear from Nonis in the next few days.
He’s eager to take part even though he’ll become a restricted free agent this summer.
“Five months off is a lot of time off,” said MacArthur. “If I get the opportunity, I’ll definitely think about it. I think it’d be a lot of fun.”
Americans Mike Komisarek and Mike Brown are also expected to take part in the tournament along with Russian Nikolai Kulemin and Belarusian Mikhail Grabovski.
Three Toronto Marlies players have been invited as well—Slovak defenceman Juraj Mikus and Germans Korbinian Holzer and Marcel Mueller.
Jonas Gustavsson, Carl Gunnarsson and Fredrik Sjostrom could still get the call from Sweden.
One player who declined his invitation is winger Phil Kessel, who has played for the U.S. on a number of occasions but is electing to sit this one out.
“I’m just going to take a break,” said Kessel. “It’s been a long year, a grind. Obviously, I love playing for my country, I’ve played in three worlds, so I’m just going to take a break, relax, go home and take a couple weeks off. …
“This year I’m kind of worn out. It’s been a long year. A lot of ups and downs.”
Brian Burke is one of seven NHL general managers in charge of the American team.
The world championship starts April 29 in Kosice and Bratislava, Slovakia. For the Toronto players making the trip, there will be plenty of familiar faces.
“That’s good,” said Schenn. “Obviously, your first goal is to be in the NHL playoffs but secondly if you can continue playing and represent your country, that’s obviously a good option as well.”