TORONTO — Kyle Dubas and Morgan Rielly have cemented themselves as indispensable parts of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, so it’s a natural extension for them to be at Pride, celebrating the city’s vibrant LGBTQ community.
After being stopped by adoring fans, most of whom were thrilled that Patrick Marleau is now off the books for the Maple Leafs, Dubas spoke about what it means to participate in Pride, an event that’s essential to Toronto’s fabric.
“It's one of the most diverse cities in the world. What I've seen over time is as different events have happened in hockey or elsewhere, people look to sports as their support release and a source of joy,” Dubas told reporters just outside the heart of the parade Sunday.
“With that comes, you bring all different people in the community. Not a better example than last week with the Raptors; you see millions of people in the streets and you see what sports can do in the community. Doing our part, we want to make sure that we're inclusive of everybody with the Maple Leafs and at MLSE.”
Kyle Dubas is at Pride to support the LGBTQ community. pic.twitter.com/YOP0aK5J9h— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) June 23, 2019
For some executives, the comments may ring as inauthentic but the 33-year-old Maple Leafs general manager is part of a generation that’s viewed LGBTQ rights as essential human rights, and has focused on inclusion, diversity and tolerance stemming back from his tenure with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds.
Dubas is almost uniquely qualified to understand what the Maple Leafs mean to Toronto, and with him and Rielly standing as avatars of this latest iteration, with genuine Cup aspirations to boot, it’s important that they’re outwardly supportive of their constituency.
"I think what we see is in hockey, we see that players are very open and accepting of everybody. It's so awesome to see Morgan here, from our team, willing to be here and march in the parade with us,” Dubas said.
“I think in hockey, and the Maple Leafs in Toronto, for us to be able to be a part of this and show that we're in support entirely, with words and being here and showing that in action is a great opportunity for us and we're thrilled to be here.”
Morgan Rielly says it’s important to take part in Pride as it’s something the Maple Leafs feel passionate about as a group. Said he went to the parade in Vancouver last year. pic.twitter.com/jeI1sLvx94— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) June 23, 2019
At 25, it’s sometimes hard to believe that Rielly just completed his sixth season with the Maple Leafs and is one of the core leaders of the team, some viewing him as the future captain. It appears that he truly understands what makes this city tick.
“I think it's important. The campaign, Hockey is for Everyone is true,” Rielly said, citing the NHL’s league-wide inclusion initiative.
“Not just for hockey but with life, in all walks of life, in all jobs, I think it's important that it's relayed. Being in Toronto, getting to live in Canada, work in Canada, be a part of a place that's as diverse as Toronto is, I think it's important that you're a part of it and you embrace Toronto for Toronto and what it is, and the people here. I'm really looking forward to it.”
Rielly’s appearance comes after a season in which he was briefly under fire for having possibly using a homophobic slur during a game. The NHL’s investigation found that he did not use a derogatory term, but Rielly used that opportunity to double down that such language has no place in the modern game.
“I was 100 percent confident I didn’t use the word,” he said at the time. “There is no place for slurs like that in sports or in life.”
Dubas and Rielly later marched with the You Can Play team. You Can Play is a movement focused on eliminating homophobia in sports. The Leafs partnered with the group earlier in the 2018-19 season, hosting You Can Play night on Feb. 25, when the team squared off against the Buffalo Sabres.
Patrick Marleau was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, and the Maple Leafs won’t absorb any of his $6.25 million cap hit for the 2019-20 season. Although it’s a relief to some fans, the organization felt otherwise and Dubas lauded the 39-year-old veteran for his leadership.
“He was unbelievable with our group, in the dressing room, on the ice, on the road. You saw it everyday in addition to how he played and his contributions on the ice. When you look back at history on how the Maple Leafs have developed and progressed, Patty Marleau's contributions are going to be seen as massive. We're happy to facilitate a positive move for him and his family and we'll move from there.”
Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen’s extensions are being finalized. Dubas said that assistant general manager Brandon Pridham has been responsible for the negotiations, and said that an update would be provided shortly.
“We're right at the finish line with them. I haven't heard from Brandon - Brandon Pridham's flying back here all day and he's handled that and handled it so well for us. He'll have that answer here for us tonight or tomorrow,” Dubas said.
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