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Leafs’ Rielly turns the corner in comfort zone

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SAN JOSE—Ask Morgan Rielly why he doesn’t like talking about how good he’s been and he tells you, “because it’s stupid,” but he doesn’t mean that, not really. He’s just kidding. He can be really funny, Morgan. He’s quick on his feet, and he seems so confident, especially now. He seems like he has it all figured out.

“Yeah, but I’ve really never been overly confident,” says Rielly.

Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly has found another gear this season, without a doubt.
Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly has found another gear this season, without a doubt.  (Eliot J. Schechter / GETTY IMAGES file photo)

Wait, what? On the ice or off?

“Both.”

You’d never know, unless you knew him when. When Rielly was a kid he was athletic, competitive as hell, but shy; he hated going to camp and meeting new kids. His family was close-knit and largely content with that. Rielly still has the same friends that he made in fifth grade playing hockey. They’re the people he’s most comfortable with.

He has changed, sort of. This season, the 24-year-old Rielly has leapt to a new place, a different place. He has 24 points in 19 games; it’s about twice his career-best points per game. He is jumping into the rush at the right time; his decision-making is unhindered by second-guessing. He credits his Leaf teammates mostly. He doesn’t look like he’s nervous.

“Well, around here I’m not like that, because I’m comfortable,” says Rielly. “But when you’re put into a new situation, I get nervous all the time. But I don’t as much anymore when I’m in this environment. When you’re around your teammates and your coaches.”

“Well, he’s a guy who always seems like he’s been comfortable in his own skin, so if he’s finding a new level of comfort then you have to believe that he’s very confident right now,” says backup goaltender Garret Sparks. “You never see the insecure side with him, right? It’s interesting that he said that because I don’t think he gives off that vibe, ever.

“I think it’s a talent that he’s able to suppress that and not show so much of it. And stuff like that takes time. If it’s taken him five years to reach that level of comfort, obviously something like that takes a little bit of time.”

That is about what it took. When Rielly started in the league he wasn’t sure of himself, and part of that was that he didn’t want to be seen as a cocky kid, holding court; he wanted to respect how good the league was, and the process of finding a foothold there. As he says, “you want to be a normal guy.”

“I’ve always been nervous and you know, feeling like I have a ways to go in order to establish myself,” says Rielly. “You want to earn your spot, and it takes time. You’ve got to earn your spot. And then as that happens you earn confidence and you get more comfortable. So it’s a process.

“I mean, take Auston (Matthews) as an example. He came in and he’s a confident guy, knowing how good he was. I wasn’t really like that. It takes time to earn that for some people, and with Auston, with (Connor) McDavid, with almost Mitch (Marner), you come in and you’re confident and you’re comfortable and you know that you’re going to be able to put up points and play well.”

But Rielly doubted himself, and then he was dropped into the Mike Babcock preparatory academy: grinding minutes and defensive assignments. And slowly, day by day and year by year, he earned confidence. Let him tell it.

“I think it just happens over time,” says Rielly. “You go to the world championships and you play big minutes, that’s a big step. The World Cup, you play well, you’re in a leadership role, that’s a big step. You come here, you play for a good team, a good coach and a good group, and you just get comfortable. You just become kind of in a good situation and you feel like you’re able to thrive.

“I mean, I think I don’t really make as many mistakes. You know, people used to tell me if you’re a good player, all you have to worry about is limiting mistakes, because the other 90 per cent of the time if you do the right thing — which if you’re a good player you will — then you’re not making pointless mistakes that are just lazy or, for lack of a better word, just dumb. And you’re going to be fine.

“I think that I don’t have a lot of limitations when it comes to ability. Like, strength and speed, I think I train hard enough in the off-season that I’m always ready to go. And the more comfortable you get and the smarter you get — because a lot of playing defence is just brain power, learning from previous mistakes and just getting better. You know what I mean? Just understanding the game more. The more you learn, the more comfortable you get in that position. There’s no excuse not to get better. Until your body starts to give out on you a little bit, you get to an age, it happens to everyone, your legs start to go.

“At a certain point you want the expectations to be raised, and when you’re playing at a high level the questions aren’t ‘How does it feel to be playing at a high level?’ It’s ‘How’s the body feeling?’ because you’re playing normally. Because that’s your standard, and that’s the level you want to get to.”

He wants this to be his normal. He wants it to be what’s expected. Watching Rielly this season is like seeing wheels catch after wading through the mud, and he’s his most confident self now. He’s at home. Before the San Jose game Thursday, Rielly was standing there in his sharp grey suit and teammate Connor Brown wandered by, lost in a cinder-block maze full of unlabelled grey doors. “That way, legend,” said Rielly, pointing to the right one. Nazem Kadri followed and Rielly sent him in the right direction, too. He knew where to go. He was sure of it.

Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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