Monday, February 25, 2008

I Am Wearing My Mats Sundin Jersey Today

I am wearing my Mats Sundin jersey today. The Toronto Maple Leaf released this statement yesterday.

"I have carefully considered the team's request that I waive my no-trade clause. I have always believed I would finish my career as a Toronto Maple Leaf so the actual request was still a very difficult one for me to contemplate. I have spoken to and listened to my family and those closest to me about this issue. In the end, there is no right decision in a situation like this one.”

"I cannot leave my teammates and join another NHL club at this time," Sundin added.

"I have never believed in the concept of a rental player. It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June. I hope everyone will understand and respect my decision."

Back in the days when men knew what the word chivalry meant, it was considered honourable for the captain to go down with his sinking ship. Men understood that honour and courage were virtues and they sought to live life in a way that accepted even hard providences with a resolute heart.

Mats Sundin has played for the Leafs for 13 years. He has captained them for ten. During that time he has developed into one of hockey’s most dependable elite players with a knack for scoring the big goal when most needed.

He is not a fighter... and that has always kept some Toronto fans wary of their first European captain. Yet, I doubt there has been one other NHL player who has made more second-rate athletes look better. Without bona fide talent at his side for nearly a decade, Sundin has played through a boatload of second and third liners... and not once did he whine about it.

You see, this is what I have always loved about Mats. He takes the high road. Oh, he is not perfect, but in a long NHL season, it is Mats who has to come and talk to the press when the team loses. It is Mats who has to be positive about poor goaltending. And Mats has to publicly support really pathetic management. Somewhere along the line, he figured out his role as captain and he has served in that capacity brilliantly.

And now Mats says he wants to finish out in the city he loves with a jersey he loves on his back. And why? Because this is his team. He is the captain. These are the guys he has fought through a bad season with. Sure he could bolt to some contender, get the team a few draft picks and maybe win the cup. But for loyal men, that stinks of treason.

My land, for once in this sad world of professional sports a multi-million dollar athlete is thinking about somebody else! “Oh,” say the critics, “if he were thinking about others he would let the team trade him.” Are you kidding me? His loyalties are in order, and they start with the guys in that locker room. Very Canadian, one might say.

They used to call Mats, “Captain Clutch.” He’s “Captain Chivalry” in my books. And cheers to my captain! I wear his jersey... my only jersey... with pride today. Mats is my kind of man.