They will pour through the turnstiles, all of these faces from Auston Matthews‘s present and past. His parents, Brian and Ema, and his grandparents, Bobby and Beverly. But also more distant relatives and friends and former hockey coaches and kids that now look up to the only guy who ever grew up going to Arizona Coyotes games before becoming a NHL star. "Pretty much my whole family," Matthews said when asked who he expects to see during Thursday’s much-anticipated visit to Gila River Arena. "It’s probably going to be a packed house." The Coyotes long ago surpassed their average number of tickets sold (12,867) for the Toronto Maple Leafs sole visit of the season. As of Thursday morning, they were still holding out hopes of reaching 17,125 – a sellout – with Matthews and Co. in town. Matthews openly acknowledges that this is more than just another game on the schedule for him. He doesn’t even mind all the hoopla that accompanies it. "No, not at all," he said. "I love coming back." His only other game here came last Dec. 23 and he was sent out to take the opening faceoff against Shane Doan, one of his childhood idols. The memory that most stands out in his mind about that night is seeing all of the signs in warmups and people wearing blue and white Matthews sweaters – something that is becoming increasingly common for every game he plays.
Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews shaped by Arizona upbringing
Sportsnet | Dec 28