Czerkawski ready for life as a Leaf

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

Mariusz Czerkawski knows he joins the Maple Leafs with new teammate Mats Sundin holding a grudge against him.

"We play tennis a lot in Sweden," Czerkawski explained yesterday in his first meeting with Toronto reporters and photographers at a downtown hotel. "The last game I won against him and he still wants a rematch, I guess."

There could be a lot of serve and volley between the two when Toronto's training camp starts tomorrow at the Ricoh Centre. Coach Pat Quinn has said he wants to see the former New York Islanders' right winger on the same line in the first days of workout.

Through his friendship with Sundin (they both have played for the Djurgarden club team in Sweden), the 33-year-old Pole is already familiar with many of his new teammates and Toronto itself.

"I had offers from some National Hockey League teams and it's no secret there was interest from European clubs," Czerkawski said. "But as soon as my agent (Neil Abbott) started talking to Toronto and they made an offer, it wasn't a very tough choice for me. I told my agent that it's the place I want to be and Mats had said a lot of good things about the town, the team, the fans and management."

Except for a half season stint with the Montreal Canadiens, Czerkawksi spent most of the past six years in the relative quiet of the small market Isles. That solitude is about to change, especially if he should ever start lighting up the board as Sundin's winger.

"There's a lot of attention and I can already feel it's going to be special for fans after one year away from hockey," Czerkawksi said.

"I have a few friends in Toronto, on and off the ice. I have a couple of friends in the Polish community, which is pretty big here. I lived in Toronto for three months (in 2003) when I was on the Hamilton Bulldogs.

"Mentally I'm prepared (for life in the Leafs' fish bowl), but we'll see how it goes. I'm ready for the challenge."


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