TORONTO — There was a buzz in the air at the Steam Whistle brewery on Thursday when Toronto Maple Leafs forward Dominic Moore hosted 25 NHL players and several hundred guests for his annual Smashfest Charity Ping-Pong Challenge.
It was a good example of what will surround the city once the Maple Leafs, coming off an impressive season, take the ice in October.
“Obviously there is a ton of energy around this event, but there is a ton of buzz about the season,” Moore said. “I’m really excited to get going with the start of the season and enjoying my time with the new team.”
Led by young players including Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman and Morgan Rielly, Moore admitted he could not help but pay attention to what the Maple Leafs did last season, when they made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and lost to the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round.
He said that success played a big part in his decision to return for a second stint with the Maple Leafs. Moore signed a one-year, $1 million contract as an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“Yeah, the group that they had (last season), the talent, the skill level, the determination that you can see the way they play game in, game out, it’s an honor to join this group,” said Moore, who played 101 games with the Maple Leafs from 2007-09.
.@mooredom serves a good game. #SmashfestVI #TMLTalk pic.twitter.com/mmV1KOnei1
– Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) July 21, 2017
Smashfest, in its sixth year, allows guests to go up against NHL players in a pro-am style doubles ping-pong tournament. It has raised more than $500,000 for concussion and cancer research and has become a summertime destination.
“This is a passion, this event, the fact that it is six years already is crazy to me,” Moore said. “We just love putting it on, we love the atmosphere of it, we love the message of it. Obviously the causes are important to me, but it’s just a fun event.”
Brown, Hyman and Connor Carrick were among the NHL players on hand.
“It’s awesome, it’s for a great cause, and with our new teammate here, Dominic Moore, everybody here showing up is really cool,” Hyman said. “It was great to meet him today. Getting to come together for a great cause is really awesome.”
Hyman, who was attending Smashfest for the first time, explained how impressed he was by the energy in the room and agreed it is likely just a small sample of what the Maple Leafs can expect this season.
“It’s only the summertime and you can see the buzz in this room already for this event,” Hyman said. “Especially with the additions we’ve made to the team over the offseason, everybody is excited for September for training camp and to see how everything rolls out. It’s going to be a great year and everybody is excited for it.”