323 entries on this blog contain the word Sundin. He's been the best player on our team since the 1994/1995 season. Even casual hockey fans know Mats Sundin plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs. At least he did—he now plays for the Vancouver Canucks.
On June 28, 1994, I was driving to King George to play a game of wall ball when I heard the news on the radio. Cliff Fletcher had sent Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and a 1994 first round pick to Quebec for Sundin, Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner, and a 1994 first round draft pick. Sundin was drafted 1st overall in 1989 and led the Nordiques with 114 points in 1992-93. I thought it was a great move, and over the next 14 years, I remained a Mats Sundin fan, a Mats Sundin defender, and a Mats Sundin believer. That, sadly, is no longer the fact.
As much as I appreciate Mats' effort over the years, his awesome skill and his overall class, signing with Vancouver hurts. It doesn't hurt because Sundin is no longer a Leaf, it hurts because Mats screwed us over and sold us out.
Back in February, I wrote It's Ok, You Know I Love You Anyway. Here's a taste.
I said this late last year in Mats, We Love You, Now Go!, but on this night it needs to be said again. Mats, it's ok. A loyal captain, I sense you're prepared to go down with the ship. This is a great quality, but this is one instance when we won't judge your loyalty should you agree to play elsewhere. In fact, as a life-long Leafs fan who has written 684 entries filed under Toronto Maple Leafs, I believe permitting Uncle Cliffy to move you to a contender will be viewed by Leafs Nation as a martyr-like sacrifice.
Only two days later, I wrote Loyalty Personified, an entry that, in hindsight, stings today. Here's a taste of that one.
It saddens me that so many see Mats' refusal to waive his no-trade clause as a sign of disloyalty or worse. I commend Mats for what he's done, and although the fan in me would love to see him traded for youth and draft picks, the human in me is glad there are still people like Mats Sundin in professional sports.
Sometimes, it's not about business, and thank heavens for that.
I saw Mats' decision to stay with the Leafs as honourable. I saw it as classy. I saw it as selfless. But, there was a caveat... he had to retire after last season, or sign on again with the blue and white. If Mats signed with another team, especially in December without going through training camp with his new teammates, then everything changed. Then Mats' decision is completely selfish and hurtful to his loyal fans and fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mats screwed us over. Mats sold us out.
I don't know why I thought Mats was different. I don't know how I can still be surprised that professional athletes look out for themselves, saying the right things and doing what makes good business sense at the end of the day. I guess I thought Mats was different. I guess I was wrong.
Mats Sundin and his Vancouver Canucks play at the ACC on February 21. I'll be watching, and I'll be cheering for #13. He's not who I thought he was, but he gave his all to this franchise for 14 years, and that's worth something.
It's ok, it's ok, you know I love you anyway. I'm just sorry it had to end like this. I thought you were different.