Mats Sundin – a true legend, icon, and personal hero retires

This is very sad news for Tre Kronor (Team Sweden) as well as hockey world wide. Today at a press conference in Sweden (Swedish), Mats Sundin announced his retirement from professional hockey at the age of 38.

I would have loved to play until the age of 65, but as a hockey player you obviously retire a little earlier than that.

To me, Mats Sundin is the greatest hockey player to ever come out of Sweden, and possibly the greatest leader sport has ever seen. One can of course always discuss what impact the likes of Lidström, Forsberg, and earlier players such as Salming had on the game – but to me, Sundin is simply in a class of his own. Before every major national competition (Olympcs, World Cup, so on and so forth), there’s always a discussion regarding what stars that will play for their country; for Sundin however, the answer was always as clear as the Caribbean waters – he always played and he always led.

Here’s a video of the press conference earlier today (in Swedish):

Toronto is and will always be my second home.

Of course, with Sundin having close to God-like status over in hockey-land Canada, this story has already been picked up by local news over in Toronto. They’ve even been kind enough to do a recap video of Sundin’s legacy with the Leafs. Sundin ends his career as the longest-serving European captain in NHL history and the top scoring Swedish and Toronto Maple Leafs player in NHL history (564 goals, 785 assists and 1,349 points). A truly remarkable record.

I posted a piece on Sundin’s return to Toronto earlier this year. He came there as the enemy with his new club Vancover Canucks and was booed for about 10 minutes of the first period. Not the reception that myself, experts, or fellow players would have expected. Once the crowd had settled down though, he eventually got what he deserved. It still gives me goose bumps.

Read the full story in the continuously updated article (other sources: TSN, CBC, Twitter).

A hero returns to Air Canada Centre

It’s story telling again, cause this is one amazing story to be told. Yesterday marked another day in history for Swedish NHL player Mats “Sudden” Sundin as he returned to his old home Air Canada Centre, the home of Toronto Maple Leafs. Sundin spent 13 years in Toronto, the majority of them as captain and the sole foundation of the team – before signing for Vancouver Canucks this season. Most talks before the game regarded whether the home fans would embrace Sundin, or actually boo him because of the move. He got off to a frosty start, it seemed the hardcore fans of Toronto had not forgotten his decision to move and he was given a tough time at the warm up and introduction. However, in the first commercial break, Sundin finally got his standing ovation and gratitude that he deserved. Fighting back tears, Sundin was actually the one breaking it all off by telling the linesmen to “drop the puck, I can’t take it anymore”. It could have lasted forever.

As this wasn’t enough, the game was tied at 2-2 and the OT didn’t decide things – we were going into a shootout. With the shootout quickly approaching, Canucks announced that Sundin would be taking the 3rd and final penalty against his old team. Of course, it was a fairytale ending, with Sundin hitting home a ‘patent’-backhand move against Vesa Toskala in the Toronto goal to win the game for Vancover. Check out the shootout, 3rd star ovation (he got one of those as well), and post-game interview below.

“A class act, for a class act”.

I can highly recommend ESPN360 for those of you who weren’t able to see the game because of your provider. It’s a fantastic service, one I’ll gladly pay for.

Swedish stories: Mats Sundins tårar i natt (AB), Sundin Hyllad (DN), Sundin hyllades och avgjorde i återkomsten (HockeyExpressen).

Also check out other blogs about Mats Sundin (via Twingly) or other Swedish blogs about Mats Sundin (via Knuff).