fitting Sundin under the cap.
Sundin’s career was often spectacular, but his legacy is complicated. To this day, Maple Leaf fans can’t seem to agree on what he meant to the team. He owns several franchise scoring records, but was criticized for underachieving. He refused an opportunity to leave the team, but was accused of lacking loyalty.
Before Sundin takes his place alongside Maple Leaf immortality, let’s take a look back at the career of one of the game’s most polarizing figures.
October 4, 1990 – One year after being taken first overall by Quebec, Sundin makes his NHL debut in Hartford and records his first career goal in what to this day remains one of the most memorable moments in recent Nordiques/Whalers history.
June 28, 1994 – A blockbuster trade sends Sundin to the Maple Leafs, with Wendel Clark going to the Nordiques. Upon witnessing the outrage in Toronto over the deal, Sundin makes a mental note that Leaf fans obviously really hate it when a popular veteran captain is traded for younger players.
September 30, 1997 – Sundin is finally given the captain’s “C” a full seven months after the Doug Gilmour trade had left it vacant, a delay caused by team president Ken Dryden’s desire to “say just a few quick words” prior to the presentation.
January 7, 2004 - The league suspends Sundin for one game after he tosses his broken stick into the lower bowl at the ACC, arguing that if they condone that sort of behavior it could someday happen in a different arena and potentially endanger actual hockey fans.
May 4, 2004 – Despite a dramatic tying goal from their captain late in the third period of game six, the Leafs suffer a series-ending overtime defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers. After the game, a disappointed but determined Sundin vows that he will never again lose another playoff game in Toronto.
February 26, 2006 – Sundin plays a critical role in Sweden’s upset gold medal victory at the Winter Olympics when he convinces Daniel Alfredsson to guarantee they’ll win bronze.
October 14, 2006 - Demonstrating his flair for the dramatic, Sundin scores his 500th career goal in overtime while shorthanded to complete a hat-trick, although some fans will later point out that the accompanying unicycle and torch juggling may have been a little over the top.
October 11, 2007 – Sundin scores a third period goal that breaks Darryl Sittler’s all-time franchise records both goals and points on the same play; or, as the Toronto media will later describe it, “Sundin fails to breaks Sittler’s single game scoring record”.
February 24, 2008 – While announcing his controversial decision not to waive his no-trade clause, an obviously conflicted Sundin tells reporters “I cannot leave my teammates and join another NHL club at this time”. He then pauses, look around warily, and adds “Soooo, if someone could tell Cliff Fletcher to stop honking the horn of the moving van in my driveway, that would be awesome.”
December 18, 2008 – After repeatedly vowing that he had no intention of playing half a season for a team and then winning the Stanley Cup, Sundin proves true to his word by signing with the Vancouver Canucks.
February 21, 2009 – Sundin makes his return to Toronto and scores the winning goal in the shootout, giving Leaf fans one last chance to see him come through without any help from his wingers.
February 11, 2012 - After watching his number rise to the rafters and realizing that he should do something to acknowledge the outpouring of affection from Maple Leaf fans, Mats Sundin finally agrees to wave.