Leafs to honour 500-goal man Sundin

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

The Maple Leafs officially will honour captain Mats Sundin's historic entrance into the 500-goal club during a ceremony tomorrow night at the Air Canada Centre.

In the meantime, the kudos keep flooding in for the Leafs captain, who reached the milestone with a three-goal performance against the Calgary Flames Saturday.

There was a congratulatory phone call from Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

There were messages of acknowledgement from his native Sweden, including a special one from his parents.

There even was an informal presentation made to Sundin by Leafs ownership last night at the Gardiner Museum. It was part of the annual "The Board Welcomes The Leafs" event, an occasion when the team's board of directors entertain the players and coaches as a kickoff to the season.

The soiree normally is held at the home of Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of the board of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Ltd., but was relocated this year because Tanenbaum's residence was being renovated.

The icing on the cake came earlier in the day when the NHL named Sundin its third star of the week.

Asked if all these honours would finally make him as popular in Toronto as former captains Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark, Sundin was quite clear in acknowledging what he still needed to do.

"Whether it's Wendel or Dougie or myself, there are expectations to win," he said. "And when you don't you will be criticized. It comes with territory.

"I don't think you get the real respect until you win championships."

Because the Leafs reportedly would be on the hook for $6.33 million US against the salary cap by picking up Sundin's option next season, they might be more inclined to let the current deal run out, then sign him to a new pact. Either way it's evident general manager John Ferguson wants him back.

"Unequivocally, yes," Ferguson said last night. "He's our leader, now as much as ever."


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