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Tom Wilson brings the Stanley Cup home for an emotional day in Toronto

Tom Wilson brings the Stanley Cup home for an emotional day in Toronto

TORONTO—Tom Wilson and the Stanley Cup made a number of stops on their tour of Toronto on Sunday, but there was never any doubting where the rugged Caps winger would take the trophy first.

The first stop, of course, was North Toronto Memorial Arena, the rink where it all started.

Wilson, who learned to play and love the game here as a 5-year-old, entered the charming old building to a standing ovation from the program’s current players, friends, family—including three generations of Wilsons—as well as a handful of former coaches and players.

For the Caps’ toughest player, it was just the beginning of an occasionally emotional day in his hometown.

Over the next three-plus hours, Wilson mingled, reconnected, posed for pictures with each of the youth teams, took a lap in the stands with the Cup and conducted an unintentionally hilarious Q & A with the youth players.

Before he started fielding questions, Wilson jokingly requested that the kids only ask softballs. The second kid who stepped to the mic musta missed the memo...much to the delight of everyone in the building.

“Why do you like fighting?” a boy asked Wilson, who had 13 fights last year, the second highest total in the NHL.

Wilson was ready with a quick answer.

“Just so everyone knows, I don’t think I got into one fight when I played for North Toronto,” he cracked. “Keep the gloves on. Play hockey. …You know what, I’ve just always been big on sticking up for my teammates. It’s part of the game still. It’s a five minute penalty and sometimes you gotta do it.”

Wilson also acknowledged that, as a youngster, he owned a black and gold Alex Ovechkin jersey and was a big fan of No. 8. While not exactly breaking news, it was something I hadn’t heard before.

Hundreds of kids attended, but just one was a special guest of Wilson’s: Brock from The Hospital for Sick Children, who overcame significant health issues thanks to the treatment he received at the world-renowned medical center. Sunday’s event benefitted the hospital’s SickKids Foundation.

Midway through the program, Toronto Mayor John Tory stopped by to congratulate Wilson. Tory also played his youth hockey at North Toronto Arena. After thanking Wilson for bringing the Cup home and partnering with the hospital for the event, Tory had some jokes.

“Did you actually play in this arena?” Tory asked Wilson, who nodded. “Well, I want you to know, so did I, which is why I’ve got the North Toronto jersey on. The only thing is, my career went terribly wrong somewhere and I ended up as the mayor of Toronto and you ended up on the Stanley Cup champions. So congratulations to you.”

Geoff Campbell, one of Wilson’s first coaches, said he’s never been surprised by the success Wilson has enjoyed as he’s moved up the ranks from AA to AA to junior to the NHL and now to world champion. That insatiable drive to be the best, according to Campbell, came built-in.

Wilson said the most humbling part of his day at NT Arena was seeing his poster on the wall, right next to the one honoring Hall of Famer Eric Lindros, who also grew up playing at the single-sheet facility.

Pete Wilson, Tom’s older brother, said he got choked up a couple of times watching Sunday’s event unfold just a few blocks from the family home.

“Seeing that banner up there, and seeing the community come out and support this event and support SickKids, it’s just so surreal,” he said. “I found myself getting choked up a couple of times because this was such a staple in our lives. I mean, we were here ALL the time. All three kids came through here. My dad coached here. My mom even coached here way back.”

As hectic as the day was at times, Tom Wilson did get a little alone time with the Cup, which he spent asking questions about its storied history.

After the celebration at North Toronto Arena, Wilson took the Cup down to the scenic Ontario Place marina, where he posed for the day’s most memorable photo.

Wilson’s unforgettable day didn’t end on the pier. But that photo did signal the end of what Wilson wanted to share with reporters.

Winning the championship marked the realization of a childhood dream, and now it was time for some private time with family and his closest friends, many of whom also donned white t-shirts emblazoned with, “We did it!”

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Tom Wilson knows he has to perform with his huge contract extension

Tom Wilson knows he has to perform with his huge contract extension

Tom Wilson got term.

He got a boatload of cash, too.

Now, the rugged Caps’ winger says, it’s up to him to continue to grow his game and improve upon the career-best numbers he put up last season.

“I love it in Washington,” Wilson said via conference call on Monday. “It's definitely a second home for me and I've had nothing but good times there. So, obviously, I was thrilled to get some term and continue to make it my home. It's nice to have that confidence from them. I think both sides are happy and now I'm just excited to be around for as long as possible.”

Wilson signed a six-year extension that will average $5.17 million late last week, making him the fifth highest paid forward on the Caps’ roster. The deal will keep him in Washington through the 2023-24 season, when he’s 30.

During the 2017-18 campaign, Wilson emerged as a key player on the ice and an important voice in the locker room. In addition to finding a home on Alex Ovechkin’s line, the former first round pick posted career-highs in goals (14), assists (21), points (35), plus/minus (+10) and penalty minutes (187). He also ranked fourth in the NHL in both hits (250) and penalties drawn per 60 minutes (1.78).

In the playoffs, Wilson missed three games due to suspension but still managed to produce five goals and 10 assists in helping the Caps to their first Stanley Cup.

As much as he already brings to the table, he’s got to bring even more to match the terms of his new deal.

And he gets that.  

“Every year I've continued to grow my responsibility and my role,” Wilson said. “I've taken more on my plate every year and, with this deal, that's going to continue to be expected. I spent the second half of the year playing the majority of the time on the top line, and I felt comfortable there, whether it was with [Evgeny Kuznetsov] or [Nicklas Backstrom] and then obviously Ovi. …It's a big commitment. It's six years and that's a long time. Each year I'm going to have to continue to perform. The NHL is about consistency.”

With Wilson back in the fold, the Caps’ offseason work is all but done. In fact, the defending Stanley Cup champion is bringing back 11 of the 12 forwards from the championship run, the entire defense and the starting goaltender.

“It's really exciting,” Wilson said, “because when you look at that the beginning of this year, a lot of people were uncertain what the future of this organization was going to hold. We didn't know what kind of team we were going to be this year. [But] guys stepped up, guys grew into new roles and we won. We were supposed to be in kind of a little bit of a down period, a rebuild period, but we proved to ourselves this past year that we can do it, that we can play great hockey and a lot of familiar faces [are] coming back.”

He added: “It's nothing but excitement from my end, and the team's pretty pumped to keep moving forward.”  

Now that his future is settled, Wilson can begin to focus on what’s next for him personally: his day with the Stanley Cup.

After watching the Cup make the rounds in Moscow, Minnesota and Winnipeg, to name a few of the stops, Wilson gets the Cup on Sunday in Toronto and plans to share it with family, friends and others who have been instrumental in his success.

“I have been following [the Cup] a little bit from the social media part of it,” Wilson said. “To be honest, I wish I could be at every single [celebration]. It’s been fun. I’ve been texting with a few of the guys and calling a few of the guys. It’s so much fun as a teammate to be able to watch those special moments with guys and their families and what they want to do on their day. It’s a lot of moments within that day that you’ll never forget so I’m pretty excited for my day to spend some time with it.”

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MedStar replacing Kettler, gets naming rights for Caps' facilities

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MedStar replacing Kettler, gets naming rights for Caps' facilities

The Capitals’ training facility got a new name on Monday: the MedStar Capitals Iceplex.

MedStar replaces Kettler as the naming rights partner for the ice rink and team headquarters, which are situated on the top of Ballston Common Mall in Arlington.

The arena had been known as Kettler Capitals Iceplex since 2006.

MedStar’s naming rights deal for the Caps’ facility is for 10 years, Monumental Sports & Entertainment chairman Ted Leonsis said.

The new agreement is actually the extension of an existing relationship between MedStar and Monumental’s teams. In fact, the Caps fans have probably noticed that players have worn a MedStar patch on their practice jerseys for the past two seasons.

RELATED: Monumental announces upgrades for fans at Caps, Wizards games

The healthcare company also now owns the naming rights to the Wizards’ new practice facility, which is being built in Southeast and is due to open this fall. That building — the MedStar Wizards Performance Center — will be home to Wizards, as well as the WNBA’s Mystics and the G League’s Capital City Go-Go.

Leonsis also said that as part of the agreement between MedStar and MSE, a ‘medical council’ will be created to help the various teams' athletes stay healthy and perform at their peak. 

“We have so many different teams in so many different leagues with different demands on the athletes, [we decided] let’s create a council and bring all of the doctors, all of the wellness experts, all of our trainers together and share best practices, share that information and data, and frankly, try to use it to our competitive advantage,” Leonsis said. “We see the difference between winning and losing is so small in professional sports. A lot of times, it’s little things like how you recover in the second game of a back-to-back.”

The name change for the Caps’ facility is effective immediately. Kettler, meanwhile, will remain involved with MSE as a partner in another capacity.

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