HomeHomeThe story behind the Maple Leafs’ new player-of-the-game belt

The story behind the Maple Leafs’ new player-of-the-game belt

TORONTO — Morgan Rielly was bragging to his general manager about how he got to meet 11-time world champion Edge this past August at a WWE Raw event held at Scotiabank Arena.

Turns out, much to Rielly’s chagrin, that noted wrestling aficionado Kyle Dubas and Edge talk and exchange text messages all the time. No biggie.

“I guess I was late to the party,” Rielly smiles.

Edge — an Orangeville, Ont., native and fervent Toronto Maple Leafs fan — came prepared for his summer meet-and-greet with Rielly and his friend, a wrestling-obsessed MLSE staffer.

The wrestler presented the alternate captain with a real-deal Maple Leafs heavyweight belt to bring back to the team. Initially, Rielly balked at accepting such a quality gift, but Edge assured him he had more than one.

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Rielly and some other leaders debated what to do with the shiny, hefty souvenir. They considered making it the grand prize for winning the players’ fantasy football league — their Shiva.

Ultimately, they decided it would be best used as this season’s player-of-the-game token, passed from one star performer to the next following a victory. Get everyone involved.

“Why not? It’s a cool way to recognize someone for their efforts in a game, and we thought it was deserving and something we should do,” Mitchell Marner says. “It’s a cool gift to us, and it’s a cool thing we got going on.”

“I’m a fan of it. It’s always fun to do something at the end of the game to recognize somebody,” adds Auston Matthews, a UFC junkie. “I just haven’t got my hands on it yet.”

The belt risked collecting dust during October’s sluggish road trip out west. Lately, it’s been getting passed around like the hottest variant.

John Tavares claimed the belt following his hat trick versus Philadelphia Wednesday, then flipped it to Justin Holl following Saturday’s prime-time win over Boston. On Sunday, Holl gave it to third-string goalie Erik Kallgren, who only allowed one goal under siege in Carolina.

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The Maple Leafs have tossed around prizes in the past. In 2019, then-coach Mike Babcock memorably presented the lads with a championship ball fresh off the Toronto Raptors’ golden run, hoping the magic would be contagious.

Rielly is the only one in the room who will remember the camouflage jacket that was awarded as encouragement to a rebuilding 2015 squad.

“Probably didn’t get handed out that much,” Rielly quips. “They probably burned it.”

Rielly doesn’t follow wrestling closely anymore, but like so many of us, he was enchanted by the outsized characters and creativity of the make-believe fighting world.

“I liked John Cena. I liked Rey Mysterio a lot. All those guys. Me and my brothers used to watch it. And just like every other group of brothers, we’d recreate the moves. Batista Bombs and the rest of it. I watched a lot when I was younger,” Reilly recalls, fondly. “I think it’s cool that it’s from Edge.

“It’s a good way to acknowledge wins a bit more than just another game.”

One-Timers: Ilya Samsonov (knee) and Kyle Clifford (shoulder) both put in a full on-ice solo session Tuesday morning as they rehab their injuries. Consider Samsonov week to week. … Matt Murray (abductor) participated in the morning skate. His next test comes Wednesday with a full practice. … Jordie Benn (groin) has been activated off IR, while Victor Mete and Pontus Holmberg were returned to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. … The Vegas Golden Knights are enjoying a league-best seven-game win streak and will look to sweep their season series versus Toronto. … The Maple Leafs are one of five Atlantic Division teams with exactly seven wins.

Maple Leafs projected lineup Tuesday vs. Vegas Golden Knights

Kerfoot – Matthews – Marner
Robertson – Tavares – Nylander
Bunting – Järnkrok – Engvall
Aston-Resse – Kämpf – Malgin

Rielly – Liljegren
Brodie – Holl
Giordano – Sandin

Källgren (starter)

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