Watch Mats when he scores a goal. Look at his face when he scores a goal, and look at his face when a teammate scores a goal, and it’s the same face. It’s the same face with the same joy, and the same pleasure, and the same excitement. And that is very rare. When you have a person with that kind of generosity who is also your best player, that matters a lot.
let’s take a moment to marvel at the perfection that is Sundin
This is the face of the man who’s hogging all the love in my wee little heart. To me, Sundin is so much more than just a hockey player. I call him my “life hero”, which is a tame way to articulate how much he means to me. This page is going to be more “lily being annoying” than “appropriate tribute to a great man”, but this is my blog, so hey.
Here is a (quickly cobbled together) list of my life’s priorities:
- other “life fuels” (all-consuming hobbies like writing and reading)
- prominent human beings in my life (i.e. certain family members and friends)
i.e. if he asked me to go out for a beer with him, I’d be way too honored to feel insulted, but I’d still say no. /loluncool
an obsession? hmm, maybe
The root of my 13-mania is his majestic, skillful playing style. He’s tall and sturdy and strong and makes everything look way too fucking easy. I’m a sucker for skilled players; he made hockey look so beautiful.
So, why aren’t I as crazy about Sidney Crosby? 87’s the face of the NHL, currently the best hockey player in the world, and oops sorry but yes I’m a rabid Crosby fan. But I’m more than ready to admit that I’m wearing nostalgia goggles. Like I said, Sundin is more than a hockey player to me. He was my beloved home team’s longtime captain. He was talented and clutch and consistent, and in the midst of my lil’ angst-ridden childhood years, he was my hero. I know this sounds ridiculous, but sometimes my life felt so empty that I took it a Leafs game at a time. And Sundin rarely missed games—he was always there. Always there to lead the guys, always there to give his team a chance, always there to inspire hope. Even in the post-Sundin era I’d drive my family crazy by watching multiple old games on Leafs TV all summer/all day long. I just tuned out their whining and soaked in the Sundin magic.
Man, I took him for granted. He was always in my list of top 3 players, but other players hogged my love—CuJo was my first favorite, then Mogilny, then Kaberle, and some now-forgotten others in between. Because Sundin was always there and I just never dared to imagine a day he wouldn’t be a Leaf anymore.
When the trade rumors swirled, I was young and ignorant and SO upset that my Leafs would even dare consider trading my captain. But he stayed with Toronto—cue sigh of relief! I mean, how the heck can there be a Leafs team without Sundin wearing the C? He literally belongs in a Leafs uniform (doesn’t he look right in a blue jersey and helmet? I’m not the only one who sees this, right?? eAe), and he belongs with the Maple Leafs, and he belongs in Toronto, and he belongs to ME…
I had my first real pang of depression in middle school and snapped out of it thanks to a renewed passion in writing. The second pang hit a few years later: I had zero motivation, was too drained to be creative enough to write, and fell deeper into the abyss. I stewed in misery and misanthropy, and again, I forced myself to cling to hobbies/interests, so I naturally latched onto Sundin. All I could look forward to was watching Leafs games and Sundin clips on YouTube after school. I could watch the same short low-quality clip on repeat for hours and the magic never faded. Thanks to a renewed passion for hockey, I snapped out of that funk.
Then Sundin’s rights were traded (to the Habs of all teams, rofl), and that’s when I realized that I took him for granted. My father loves hockey too but he was never moved to splurge for game tickets, so I never actually got to witness his magic at a Leafs game first-hand. I never got to own Sundin jersey. I didn’t even pay attention whenever my father pointed out, “Hey, you know, Sundin’s apartment is right there!” whenever we were in a certain area in Toronto, which I can’t remember for the life of me…. (Not saying I should have stalked him, but you know, still…)
After the ridiculous way the Leafs treated him, I wanted him to leave. I wanted him to join a top team that would benefit from his talent, that would respect him, and that would give him a chance to capture hockey’s holy grail.
He signed with the Canucks, which was cool with me. I watched as many Canucks game as I could and I eagerly took in every moment of what I knew was likely his last year in the NHL.
Holy shit, the February 21 game… I was almost too scared to watch it because TML fans were stuck in a “Sundin screwed us over” mindset and I feared my hero would get booed. But he got a fucking awesome standing ovation (yes I stood up and clapped in my living room, don’t judge me), which was a classy move by the fans. And the ensuing boos weren’t even offensive. It’s hockey, y’know? I will never, ever forget that storybook shootout ending—pure magic. I switched my allegiance to the Canucks during the postseason (not like the trainwreck Leafs team made it that year…) and was absolutely devastated when they were eliminated. The thought of Sundin retiring before winning a Cup was too much to bear.
Not only was he the beloved captain of my favorite sports team throughout my childhood, but he literally saved my life through those magical 240p YouTube clips. Yes, Sundin is my life hero—I still bleed blue and white, but damn, a Sundin-less Leafs team just isn’t the same. </3
but don’t forget that he was a pretty damn good player
I’m not delusional—I won’t claim he was the ~greatest hockey player ever~ and that he left Gretzky in his dust. But come on—he wasn’t too shabby.
He was consistent like whoa: 17-straight 20+ goal seasons, and all 70+ point seasons except his rookie year, the shortened lockout year, and his halved final year. His super-steady production was the Leafs’ lifeline. He’s had some memorable games too—the beast 4-goal game against the Panthers comes to mind first, but he also had a 5 goal (7 points) game back in his Nordiques days. And he totally had the greatest 500th career goal ever. *w*
At his time of his retirement, he was tied for most overtime goals with 15. Jagr, who was tied with him, has since passed him (lulz, he’s never going to retire is he), and Ovechkin will likely set a crazy new record that blows Sundin’s stat away, but this is just a microcosm of how clutch he is: at the time of writing, he’s (tied for) 21st in career goals yet 7th in game-winning goals. Like I said, not too shabby!
And he was inducted into the HHOF in his first year. That’s gotta count for something, right? 8Dd
Obviously I’m very much biased, but it drives me nuts when people say Sundin was an average player at best. Like srsly, he wasn’t special at all? Even though he rarely had the chance to play with decent wingers (because the Leafs “put the team’s interest ahead” of his)? \@A@/ He was a point-per-game player throughout his career (even at the end—8 points in the Canucks’ 8 playoff games) and always came up clutch.
The biggest knock against him is the whole no-Stanley-Cup thing (he did captain Sweden to an Olympic gold medal though, c’mon that’s almost as good right), but hey, it’s unfair to blame that entirely on him. I was always crushed when the Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs (back when they actually made it every year, lol), but I never blamed it on him. He gave so much to the team, and often the team gave very little back. Alas, the hockey gods decreed it wasn’t meant to be…
SO MUCH LOVE
I literally can’t. Like my heart is literally overwhelmed with feels right now. I CAN’T EVEN KEEP TYPING omg. SO. MUCH. LOVE. Despite being a foaming-at-the-mouth atheist, I understand the appeal of religion: I have him up on a pedestal, and I worship him, and I convince myself that my sucky life doesn’t suck because Sundin exists.
AHHH I COULD KEEP TYPING FOREVER but jhklajs;fjhlas;f okay I will stop now. I can never thank him enough for keeping me sane throughout my shitty teenage years. I don’t think I’ll ever have the words to describe how much I frickin’ love him, but god, I’m so emotionally invested in him that I still watch full NHL games he’s played in despite the fact that he retired 4 years ago (dayum, that makes me feel old…) and relive my favorite Sundin memories whenever I need a little instant happy.
I wish I hadn’t written this while being so goddamn sleep-deprived, but school is eating me alive right now, and in times of stress I still turn to Mats Sundin. Not an eloquently written piece BUT I’ll only visit this page to skim over some of my fave Sundin pics, so hey, it’s all good!
random update in 2014: Highlights of this year include, in chronological order: seeing Sundin’s ACC banner in-person for the first time (which was almost as magical as the actual City and Colour concert itself, lol), getting a Sundin tattoo (solid black “13” in a hockey jersey font on my inner right forearm), and getting a Sundin-related present from my mother for Christmas! Yup, the obsession is still going strong…