Spring football practice starts today for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, so yesterday they kicked things off with a press conference held by Head Coach Brian Kelly.

The once-elite Fighting Irish have struggled of late, largely because of their issues at quarterback. Heading into this season they have four guys who could legitimately end up with the University’s coveted, pressure-packed QB job. The spotlight will burn bright on whoever wins that competition.

When asked about their situation in the press conference, Coach Kelly found reason to reference the Toronto Maple Leafs and Hockey Night in Canada because, hey, don’t all college football coaches?

(…No? Oh. Read on anyway, then.)

This was the question he was asked:

Do you have a goal that you want to get down to two or three quarterbacks by the end of the spring going into the fall?  Could all four still be competing by August?  What’s your timetable in that regard?

Which is when Kelly referenced the Leafs:

Yeah, I haven’t given it much thought, other than if you look at what we did last year and what we can’t do this year, my focus has been more on what has to be accomplished as it relates to all of them, not in the he’s one, he’s two, he’s three, he’s four.

I think that’s going to come out naturally by the way we’ve set the offense up so they all can compete, and I think it’s something that will be talked about and evaluated daily, because it’s the Notre Dame ‑‑ I was watching Hockey Night in Canada.  This is a true story.  I was watching Hockey Night in Canada.  I’m a big hockey fan.  I was watching the Bruins play the Leafs, and they talked about the Maple Leafs not making the playoffs and their goalie and how everybody in Canada is micromanaging the position, and he mentioned it’s like the quarterback position at Notre Dame.  I was like, we’ve arrived.  We’re talked about in Canadian hockey terms.

My point is everybody is going to do that anyway.  Everybody is going to look at it and evaluate it so we naturally will, as well, but I haven’t put a timetable on it.

This is my first year working for a Toronto-based media company, and thus, my first year really paying attention to the Leafs, their media, and their fans. It’s absolutely suffocating at times.

Dozens of Leafs columns are required daily. There’s not nearly enough stories to go around. So when the goaltending is bad, the sledgehammers hit the keyboards (especially earlier this season). Columns are halfway roughed out before a goaltender can make his way to the bench after getting yanked mid-game. Everyone has a better idea (new players, new goalie coach, new style), or at least a complaint. “Micromanaged” is bang-on.

And indeed, it is a lot like the quarterback situation at Notre Dame. It takes a confident person, someone who can handle all the mudslinging and praise without their nerves being shook or their heads getting swoll to succeed under such a microscope.

Still, the biggest thing to take away from that quote is something different: Brian Kelly watches hockey. I think I suddenly have cause to root for a college football team.