Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Why we should all root for Joseph Woll
By Bennett Jull3 months ago
What makes certain athletes more popular than others? Each fan has a different taste, but there are certain characteristics and qualities that fans across the board adore. Everyone loves a hard worker, someone who gives back within the community, and obviously an athlete who contributes to winning.
This city is a tough place for anyone to be a true fan-favourite. William Nylander is currently receiving a ton of plaudits, and deservedly so, but for years he has been maligned by both fans and media. Matthews and Marner are loved by many, but both have received their fair share of criticism, while John Tavares has been labelled as overpaid and overrated, despite putting up strong consistent numbers.
Toronto hasn’t had a true fan-favourite goaltender in a long time. Jack Campbell had the personality for it, but his on-ice play ultimately underwhelmed. I was a fan of Frederik Andersen, who may be the closest thing the Maple Leafs have had to a fan-favourite between the pipes for a long time. While he had a solid tenure in Toronto, you’d have to go back to the early 2000s, when Ed Belfour and Curtis Joseph manned the crease, to truly find a unanimous fan favourite.
Now, he has a long, long way to go before we can compare him to Eddie the Eagle or Cujo, but Joseph Woll has shown as much promise as any young goaltender Toronto has produced in a long time. So, what makes Woll special? Why is he someone Leafs Nation should really get behind? The answers go far beyond his ability on the ice.
Woll was drafted seven years ago, and like many goaltenders, he took his time breaking into the NHL. He shone in the NCAA with Boston College before heading to the AHL for further seasoning. In his first pro season, he struggled. His numbers improved each year, culminating with a 0.927 save % last season with the Marlies while earning enough to trust to start for the Leafs in the playoffs.
Much was made of his inexperience heading into this season, and the 25-year-old has talked about not being fully ready to tackle the rigours of an 82-game season until this year. His self-awareness and calm demeanour have enabled him to start this season off strongly. Some strong early results have led to some lofty comparisons from his impressed teammates.
Having a full pre-season on the back of a summer full of relaxation, gym work, and some travel has certainly helped. Woll went on a nine-day solo hiking trip through France, Italy, and Switzerland once the Leafs bowed out against Florida. He slept in a tent and stayed in hostels. The Missouri native mingled and socialized with friendly strangers and other hikers. His cell phone was turned off most of the trip as he enjoyed the Alps in peace.
The overwhelming majority of 25-year-olds use social media every single day. TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, the list goes on. Joseph Woll uses none of it. Rather than expend valuable time and energy buried in his phone, Woll keeps a list of the people that matter to him, and texts or calls those people to keep in touch. His down-to-earth and humble persona is refreshing.
While he may not engage with fans via social media, he has certainly provided his fair share of strong media content. Perhaps his most notable moment was when he revealed he found out about the Ryan O’Reilly trade the next morning while struggling to understand Toronto’s lineup chart.
Wholesome content to say the least. Perhaps my personal favourite thing about Joe Woll is how he gives back to the community. Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is Canada’s largest children’s rehab hospital. It’s located right by Sunnybrook Hospital in the city’s Northeast end. Every so often celebrities and athletes will visit to brighten the moods of many young children who physically suffer. Just recently, Drake visited.
Last year, the Toronto Marlies went as a team. Fun was had by all, and while it may have been just a couple of hours for the athletes, the memories they helped create lasted far longer for the children. Joseph Woll must have enjoyed his time playing and talking with the kids, as he’s gone back to the hospital on his own. Not at the request of the organization, Woll has been back almost a half dozen times. Regardless of his on-ice play, that’s the type of athlete I’ll always cheer for.
A hard worker who’s had to bide his time. A selfless young man who willingly gives back to the community. A fun interviewee. The present and future of Toronto’s crease. All of these could be used to describe Joseph Woll. Toronto is a town that perpetually places pressure upon the shoulders of its star hockey players. It’s years of underachieving that’s led Leafs Nation to point a quick finger or bemoan the first sight of poor performance. In a city where opinions are constantly divided, perhaps we can all appreciate and root for Joseph Woll.
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