This set the stage for one of Sundin's biggest heartbreaks.
For the next two days, we're running 13 of our top memories of Mats Sundin as a Maple Leaf. There are more to choose from but Sundin captaining Sweden to Gold in 2006 and his years as a Nordique won't make an appearance on the list. For help, I enlisted Mats Sundin's biggest fan Eyebleaf to help come up with and number the list. It's far from exhaustive and your mileage may vary on our choices but these were the 13 that came immediately into our minds so consider it a small token of our appreciation for one of the greatest Leafs of all-time.
Scandinavians are known for a lot of things: drinking a lot (true), beautiful blondes (very true), and being pretty reserved emotionally (that's what they say anyway). In Mats Sundin's tenure as captain of the Maple Leafs, that perception is what often kept media and fans from fawning over him to the extent that he likely would have received in other cities. My favourite remark by MF37 is that if he had been born in Kelvington, Saskatchewan there'd be a statue of him in Toronto.
While that was the perception, I don't think it takes much scratching beneath the surface to see just how much Mats wanted to win and just how much he came to appreciate the fans eventual warming to him in the twilight of his career in Toronto. He wasn't one for displaying raw emotions. His cool demeanour was often interpreted as aloofness (he'd have been enigmatic if he was Russian) but it just showed how much he mastered every aspect of his performance.
This one is purely Eyebleaf's memory since I had to listen to this game on the radio on a trip back from a high school cricket game. All 13 of us crowded around a static-y portable radio to listen in to one of the most heartbreaking games in recent Leafs' playoff history.
One of the more painful memories I have of Sundin is of the Toronto captain sitting on the Leafs bench, another playoff exit moments away, tears in his eyes. If my memory serves me correctly, it was the night the Leafs mustered a pathetic six shots as they were eliminated by the New Jersey Devils. I'll never forget that shot of Sundin on the bench. I hope you don't, either. Sundin cared. Sundin wanted to win. He was never as physical or as emotional as most fans would have liked him to be - as emotional and physical as Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark - but I will argue until my death that Sundin wanted to win just as badly as those captains before him.