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Students pack Muskoka arena to watch Toronto Maple Leafs training camp

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Students in Gravenhurst got to get up close and personal with some of their favourite Toronto Maple Leafs players on Wednesday as the NHL team hit the ice to practice at a local arena.

Excited Muskoka Beechgrove Public School students donned their best white and blue and walked over to the Centennial Centre to watch the Leafs in action.

"It's so cool. I love Mitch Marner, and it's awesome. I'm so excited," said student Kaliyah Monaghan.

Many of the students have only idolized the team through a TV screen, making this a dream come true.

"This is my first time ever going to anything like this before," said student Christian Lima.

"It's awesome considering that some of the best players in the NHL are here in our small town, so it's really cool," added student Stewart Thomas.

And it's not just a memorable experience for the kids; it's a fun trip for the Leafs, who explored Muskoka's resorts and golf courses before attending training camp.

"I mean, hanging out with the guys, getting to know the new guys, and having fun together, it's been a great team-building trip," said Toronto Maple Leafs player William Nylander.

Leafs veteran Mark Giordano said he understands how special these memories are for the kids, adding he remembers watching the team practice at Maple Leave Gardens as a youngster.

"You just remember it. I still remember it like it was not too long ago, so it's a cool experience. You get to the speed, and you get to maybe get some autographs and interact with the guys closer than you normally would, so I'm sure it's a really fun day," the Leafs defenceman said.

Beechgrove Public School students show their excitement watching the Toronto Maple Leafs practice in Gravenhurst, Ont., on Wed., Oct. 4, 2023. (CTV News/Ian Duffy)

"A lot of kids out there obviously having a good time, [who] maybe don't get an opportunity to see an NHL team practice, so there was a lot of energy, a lot of high-pitch screaming out there," said Leafs Forward Ryan Reaves.

It was an experience that likely won't be forgotten any time soon.

"I always wanted to do something like this, and finally, for something to happen like this, I feel like my life is complete," Lima said.

The team will head back to Toronto to wrap up the pre-season with two games against the Detroit Red Wings this week.

As the regular season approaches, the players said they hope to have more success on the ice than they did in Muskoka on the golf course.

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