The Toronto Maple Leafs, it seems, decided to have their own encounter with a celebrity of dubious musicality in the wake of Michael Bublé's twirl on the ice with the Vancouver Canucks.
Justin Bieber, idol to teenyboppers around the world, showed up at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night for a quasi-secret skate with a few Leafs and a young man who was on the ice thanks to Make-A-Wish Canada.
The Leafs have a connection of sorts with Bieber, since defenceman Jake Gardiner has taken more than his share of ribbing in the last week or so for admitting in a radio interview that Bieber "inspires" him. Quite an admission for a 21-year-old about someone who inspires hysteria mostly in 13-year-old girls.
Gardiner, of course, was on the ice along with a few teammates like Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak and Jonas Gustavsson when Bieber arrived a few hours before taping his Christmas special at Massey Hall. Bieber, who claims to be a decent hockey player, took some shots on Gustavsson and scored a few times.
After the Leafs' game-day skate on Thursday prior to their game against the Buffalo Sabres, Gustavsson said Bieber wasn't too bad. "You could definitely tell he's been on the ice before," he said.
Mind you, Gustavsson said, he wasn't going all out. "Maybe I didn't go game-style," Gustavsson said. "But I didn't give him any free ones."
At 27, Gustavsson is at least a decade too old to be a fan of Bieber, although he said such is not the case for his girlfriend, who was fortunate enough to be present. "She was more excited than me," Gustavsson said.
James Reimer, who will start in goal for the Leafs against the Sabres, jokingly told reporters he was a little jealous Gustavsson got the call instead of him. Then he let it slip "there are a few" Bieber fans among the Leafs in addition to Gardiner. But he refused to identify the 'un-cool' guilty parties.
"I couldn't do that to the guys," he said.
In hockey matters, forward Dave Steckel will return from a bout with the flu to play for the Leafs against the Sabres. Also in the lineup will be forwards Nazem Kadri and Darryl Boyce, who were promoted from the Leafs' farm team. Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill will sit this one out along with Colby Armstrong, who is out indefinitely with a concussion. Head coach Ron Wilson said defenceman Keith Aulie will also play, and it looks like Gardiner, who has not played well in the Leafs' last two games, could be the odd man out.