Mats is visiting tomorrow. I'm torn.
Well over 300 entries on this blog contain the word Sundin. He was the best player on our beloved Leafs since the 1994/1995 season. He was quiet, private, classy and, we thought, loyal. Then, Mats sold us out, signing with the Canucks in December without going through training camp with his new teammates, something he said he wouldn't do when he refused to waive his no-trade clause last February.
The past two years with Mats have been wrought with emotion. He emphatically declared the Leafs would win the Stanley Cup during his tenure with the club (Words to Dream By - April 19, 2007). Meanwhile, my biggest fear was that he'd end up a Senator (Sundin to the Sens: A Jagged Little Pill - November 5, 2007) or a Canadien (Sundin a Hab? A Strange Day in Toronto Sports - June 20, 2008). Perish the thought.
When he was asked by Cliff Fletcher to waive his no-trade clause, you could tell Mats was conflicted. I urged him to waive his no-trade clause as a martyr-like sacrifice for Leafs Nation (It's Ok, You Know I Love You Anyway - February 23, 2008) and, when he refused to do so, I praised his decision as honourable (Loyalty Personified - February 25, 2008). I saw Mats as a different kind of cat (Mats Is A Different Cat - July 2, 2008)... a deeper thinker who is very private and very proud.
Mats all but disappeared last summer. I called out to him in late July (Sundin Sundin Sundin Sundin Sundin Sundin Sundin - July 22, 2008) but training camp opened without him. I still assumed he would re-sign with the Leafs or retire, as any other option would taint his legacy here in the capital of the universe. Then, a little birdy splashed the writing on the wall (Sundin Trashes Toronto: Toronto Mike Exclusive! - November 27, 2008) and Mats signed with Vancouver (Bedtime Stories for Mats Sundin - December 18, 2008).
The next day, I started to deal with the pain (Mats Sundin Will Not Retire A Maple Leaf - December 19, 2008).
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.
We're a day away from that game. Part of me wants to give him a big hug and thank him for the memories, but another part of me wants to give him the cold shoulder and let him know that he hurt me.
Tomorrow, I'll let it go, tip my Leafs cap to #13 and close out the era. It's time to heal. It's time to move on. I wish Mats luck with the Canucks–I'm just glad it's not with the Sens or Habs.