Matt Finn, number 76, was the second round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in this year’s NHL entry draft. The Toronto native attended St. Gregory’s Catholic School and Michael Power/St. Joseph’s High School. Photo by Allison Hunwicks

Toronto Maple Leaf dreams come alive for St. Gregory’s grad Matt Finn

  • August 24, 2012

TORONTO - It's mid-summer at the MasterCard Centre in south Etobicoke, and a Toronto Maple Leafs' prospect game is about to get underway. Some of the most talented young hockey players in the world are powering across the ice for the pre-game warm up. Sporting the blue and and white of the hometown Leafs, some names are already familiar to fans, and all are currently under the scrutiny of scouts in the National Hockey League's biggest market. Leafs' general manager Brian Burke himself is visible on occasion from a box above the ice, surveying the prodigious talent circling below.

For one player, however, this is a setting that may seem more familiar than to the others. Matt Finn, Toronto born and raised and selected by the Leafs in the second round, 35th overall, in the 2012 draft, is poised to become the hometown hero fans of the franchise have been awaiting.

The middle sibling of three brothers, Finn grew up in central Etobicoke as a Leafs fan, attending St. Gregory's Catholic Elementary School and Michael Power/St. Joseph High School before leaving for Guelph to play for the Storm in the Ontario Hockey League. He played school hockey in both places, and helped to start up the first St. Gregory's intramural team.

"I loved it. Just being out there and playing with them," said Finn of his time in school athletics. "You don’t get many chances to do that often. To be able to play and compete with some of your best friends is pretty special.

“It was really great to have that community supporting not only myself but hockey (development) as well in that neighbourhood,” said Finn, who also attended St. Gregory's Church where he was confirmed.

He also attributes the hockey community in Etobicoke for some his most influential and fond memories of the sport that he hopes to make his career.

“When I was six or seven years old, my team, the West Mall Lightning, won a tournament where the final game was played at the Air Canada Centre. That was a really cool experience for me," said Finn.

"Playing hockey with your friends on the backyard rink at all hours of the night, and being out there doing what you love — it's something that you don't forget,” said Finn, whose childhood friend, Connor Brown, was also drafted by the Leafs.

“We actually grew up playing hockey together, since we were about three or four years old. He’s one of the first friends that I made playing hockey," said Finn of his fellow Michael Power/St. Joseph's alumni.

Finn had a breakout season last year with the Storm — Finn led the Guelph defence in goals, assists and points (48 in total — and is finally coming down from what has been the most exciting time in his young career.

“Things are calming down," he laughs. "It’s been a crazy couple months, for sure."

At six feet tall, Finn is a multi-talented player.

"I think overall, I’ve found my comfort level as a player... I just kind of took it and ran with it,” said Finn of his success this past year. “After my first year we lost a lot of the senior players and they moved on to the American or National leagues so there was a lot of room for young players like myself. I saw an opportunity and did the best that I could.”

For now, Finn expects he will return to the Storm for another season or two, where he hopes to work on his strength and skating to allow him to fulfill his dream of playing for the Leafs.

“That’s always been the goal," he said, "and I was fortunate enough for that to become a reality this summer.”

Now 18, he also relishes the potential opportunity to be selected for Team Canada for this year's World Junior championships in Russia.

"To represent Team Canada and play in the World Juniors, that would be a dream come true for me.”

Despite the often strained relationship between the fans of Leafs Nation and the sometimes beleaguered Leafs, Finn welcomes the opportunity to become a part of the historic franchise.

“Growing up in Toronto... I think I know more of what to expect. I’m extremely excited to be a part of the organization.”

For now, Finn intends to work hard and dedicate himself to earning a place in the NHL, and speaks earnestly about his love and enthusiasm for the game.

“I think it speaks volumes about the sport, how passionate you have to be to play it.”

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