Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews tries to focus on job during tough week

0

TORONTO — Auston Matthews is attempting to focus on hockey as a turbulent week continues for the Toronto Maple Leafs star centre.

Matthews once again was in the spotlight at the Leafs’ morning skate Friday in the aftermath of news that he faces a disorderly conduct and disruptive behaviour charge stemming from an alleged incident in his hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz., in May.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

“Like I said the other night, I’ve still got to come to work and do my job, and do it well,” Matthews said.

“I’ve got to come to the rink, work hard and try to push that stuff aside and focus on my play on the ice.”

When asked if that has been difficult, Matthews said, “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s something that I think I’m learning from and growing from.”

Matthews was not scheduled to play in Detroit in a pre-season game against the Red Wings on Friday night. The same two teams finish the pre-season schedule on Saturday in Toronto.

A female security guard has said she was sitting in her locked car when a group of men, including Matthews, allegedly tried to get inside the vehicle on May 26 outside the player’s condominium.

In the police report, the woman said she confronted the group, who she believed to be intoxicated, and during that interaction Matthews withdrew from the conversation and dropped his pants and grabbed his buttocks.

The security guard said Matthews, then 21 years old, kept his underwear on.

Matthews was not arrested.

A pre-trial conference was held in Arizona on Wednesday. The City of Scottsdale’s website lists the next court date as Oct. 22.

Matthews’ lawyer and agent have not responded to interview requests.

News of the charge broke on Tuesday. Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said he learned about the charge on Tuesday when looking at Twitter.

Matthews says he believes his relationship with Dubas is fine.

“I think we’re in good shape,” he said. “Obviously I made a mistake. I’m taking ownership of it, but everybody makes mistakes.”

Matthews has been considered one of the leading candidates to be captain of the team. The Leafs have said they will name a captain this season after going without one since trading Dion Phaneuf in February 2016.

Matthews says the Leafs have many leaders.

“We’ve all started out together,” he said. “Five, six guys started out three, four years ago. We’ve all grown together over the last couple years. I think everybody wants to take steps forward in that area. We’ve got a lot of guys in the room that can lead, and that lead by example.”

Leafs coach Mike Babcock says Matthews won’t be the first or last person to have to deal with a challenge.

“The bottom line is, there’s lots of things that happen to you in your life that aren’t particularly good. Happens to all of us,” Babcock said.

“It’s what you do about it after, it’s how you respond. I think that’s the key to all this stuff. The problem for anybody in the spotlight (is) your life happens in the spotlight. You’d like it not to sometimes, but other times you like it to be. So you can’t have both. It’s the way it is.”