Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner has ardour for the Argonauts

There were a few “who-dat?” moments at BMO Field this summer whenever the Toronto Argonauts took the field, when folks realized Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner was among them.

It was as if Marner was a kind of unofficial mascot for the CFL team.

“A friend recommended I come out and I ended up liking it and just kept going back,” said Marner, after skating Thursday with teammates at the MasterCard Centre in preparation for the opening of NHL training camps next week. “Since they moved to BMO, I’m a big fan of going there and watching.

“This city loves its teams, no matter what team it is, no matter what sport it is,” the 20-year-old Marner added. “I think it’s important for all our athletes to show one another love. It’s a great city. We’re all lucky to be here.”

It not unusual to see the players on one of Toronto’s professional sports teams support another, creating cross-over friendships.

“I got to meet all those guys. I know them pretty well by now. The ones from Canada knew hockey pretty well,” Marner said of his new Argos buddies. “It’s exciting watching the work they put in.”

The time for summer distractions is over for Marner, who wants to build on a superb rookie season heading into his sophomore year.

“It’s an important year for all of us,” Marner said. “We have to be better than last year. We want to do better than what we did last year. We’re all coming in ready to play this year, having confidence in each other to go farther.”

Marner is not just talking about points — he put up an impressive 61 last year — when talking about improving. He wants to be a better all-around player.

“If you play the all-around game, that stuff will come,” Marner said. “You’ve got to make sure you keep pucks out of your net before you go down the other way. It starts in your own zone.”

Marner worked this summer on his power and his speed and he has no plans to succumb to the so-called sophomore jinx.

“We just have to stay confident with each other, and have a lot of fun like we did last year,” Marner said. “We still have a lot of young guys in this room. And we have guys who have gone a lot further in their career. We have the best of both sides here in this room.”