Leafs rolling in `Cadillac of training facilities'

It's huge.

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That was the first and most widespread reaction yesterday from executives, players and media at the unveiling of the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence, the Leafs' new training facilities in Etobicoke.

The nearly 300,000-square-foot complex, boasting four ice pads and state-of-the-art training and medical quarters, reinforces the impression that the franchise plans to build a winner in Toronto.

"It's the Cadillac of training facilities," Leafs GM Brian Burke said of the complex, which the Leafs and Marlies will share with Hockey Canada, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Lakeshore Lions hockey community and the Etobicoke Dolphins women's hockey league.

"It's part of a culture of winning and this goes a long way toward that. It says (to players) this is the big leagues and this is what we expect."

Burke said this facility, which replaces the aging Lakeshore Lions Arena as the club's top practice resource, was even a lure dangled to land free agents over the summer.

"Free agents talked about this facility and we brought the "Monster" here before we signed him," Burke said of young Swedish goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.

While Leafs and Marlies players worked out on the new ice sheets before the unveiling, one of the amateur tenants said they were extremely pleased with their working arrangements in the new facility.

The Dolphins, with more than 900 female hockey players in its leagues, praised the Lions for helping create a user-friendly facility for all levels of hockey.

"We were very pleased with the Lakeshore Lions because they worked with us over the past four or five years and included things like making dressing rooms better for female hockey," said Bob Clarke, a rep director with the Dolphins.

"Sure, there are price increases, but we've never played in a facility like this one. We're very happy with what we have now for our leagues."

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