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Mark Giordano Is Racing Against Time

Mark Giordano knows time is running out to capture his first ever Stanley Cup. And entering his first full season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, this is a race he intends to win.
Mark Giordano

Mark Giordano opened training camp for the first time in a decade this week without a 'C' waiting on his game-day uniform. 

At this point, life without the captaincy is likely a foreign concept for the 38-year-old, who had previously held it for the Calgary Flames from 2013-2021 before being named the Seattle Kraken's inaugural captain upon his arrival the following year. 

Heavy is the chest that wears the 'C', though. While Giordano is among the more light-hearted veterans in the NHL, someone quick to acknowledge the luxury of playing a game for a living, there's no doubt that the responsibilities accompanied by being your locker room's central leadership figure can weigh on a person -- especially when stretched over a period of ten years and two different franchises. 

If it did, though, Giordano certainly hasn't shown it. The Toronto native makes the most routine practice look like the time of his life. It's what's made him so beloved by teammates and coaches alike. But as Giordano's third act kicks off this season and the race to capture that elusive Stanley Cup enters its final stretch, pulling on a sweater with nothing but the Leafs' newly-minted "Milk" advertisement patch on the shoulder must feel somewhat freeing. 

"We have a great leadership group," espoused Giordano during Wednesday's Media Day availability. 

"I really enjoyed just getting to know the guys last year over the 30 games or whatever it was and then into the summer. But it's a huge benefit for me to come into camp now and really just practice every day. You get a lot more reps this time of the year." 

There's a palpable excitement radiating off Giordano ahead of his 17th NHL season. And why wouldn't there be? Everything is falling into place for the hometown kid, with the Maple Leafs being a legitimate contender to begin the year while Giordano's continued on-ice effectiveness and decision to sign a ludicrously team-friendly deal over the summer made him the apple of the fanbase's eye. 

He's just like them, really; desperate for his first taste of championship glory in what feels like a lifetime and willing to do anything to get it. 

That connection allows Giordano to relish the pressure, not run from it. And he'll need to do exactly that to accomplish his goal this season. 

"There's a lot of passion in our city," Giordano explained. 

"Whether it be fans, family, friends, media. I mean, people care. It's a really cool thing to be a part of. And we have to embrace that. This is a unique opportunity to play in Toronto, to play in this market that cares so much about how we do. And we should look at that as a positive." 

Giordano is not the first hometown veteran to join the Leafs in search of that elusive late-career Cup. This is story has played out countless times before, with Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, and Nick Foligno, to name a few, following the same script in the blue and white. Obviously, none of those stories featured a happy ending, as each fizzled out in the same anti-climatic manner that has now come to define this era of Maple Leafs hockey. 

But Giordano seems different. While certainly not the Norris-winning staple he was in his prime, Giordano is on a different level than any of those names that came before him, looking less like a near-40-year-old greybeard his birth certificate shows him to be and more like the needle-moving top-four defender the Maple Leafs have searched for for quite some time. 

Giordano can play on the power play. He can kill penalties. His foot speed remains intact while his hockey sense has evolved to compensate for any age-related regression in his toolbox. The Maple Leafs are simply a better team with him on the ice, as Giordano's midseason arrival back in March helped take Timothy Liljegren's game, and the blue line on the whole, to another level. 

Off the ice, he's just as valuable, too. 

"I always say, I need as much support as everyone else," explained Maple Leafs captain John Tavares. 

"You need people to lean on. I don't always have all the answers. So, it's important to have a strong group in the locker room, guys that have been around...And with Gio, not only with his play on the ice, but what he brings off the ice is certainly going to help me tremendously, along with the rest of our guys and the rest of our group." 

While Giordano signed a two-year deal to remain in Toronto, hockey is an unforgiving sport. Even the best-laid plans have a tendency to never come to fruition, making each and every moment as important as the last. GM Kyle Dubas, the man who acquired Giordano in the first place, is in the final year of his contract and will enter the season without an extension. Auston Matthews is two years out from free agency. Tavares is creeping further into his 30s by the day. Who knows what the Maple Leafs organization will look like in eight months, making this season perhaps Giordano's final shot to reach hockey's highest peak in the city he calls home. 

Time is of the essence. And he knows it. But if training camp is any indication, this is a race Giordano is more prepared to win than ever before. 

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