Nicklas Lidstrom wants Mats Sundin to return to the NHL this season, even if it turns out it is not as a member of the Detroit Red Wings.
"I really hope he plays," Lidstrom said yesterday. "He showed last season he can still play at a very high level."
Lidstrom's comments came on the same day that a story by Sun Media said Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk recently told Sundin during a chance encounter in Sweden that the Senators still really want him.
As for Lidstrom, the Detroit Red Wings captain said at the June NHL awards in Toronto that he would love to see Sundin come to Motown. The two men subsequently held a phone conversation in Sweden over the summer, but Lidstrom said he did not try to further woo Sundin to the Red Wings.
"At that time, he already was at the stage he is now -- he didn't know if he wanted to play or not," Lidstrom said.
Asked if he could understand why Sundin might want to hang up the blades, Lidstrom said yes.
"He's been in the league a long time," Lidstrom said. "And it's different here than it is in Toronto. There is a lot more media there for him to deal with. Plus, the last few years, they were fighting for a playoff spot right to the end. That takes a lot out of you, both physically and mentally, especially if you don't make it."
Lidstrom and Sundin were teammates on the 2006 Swedish team that won the Olympic gold medal.
"I've been asked if the gold or the Stanley Cup is more important. I consider them equals. The medal is bigger in Europe while the Cup is bigger here.
"I know winning the gold was a big deal for Mats, especially after some of the disappointments we'd had prior to that."
THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS?
Leafs coach Ron Wilson had a good chuckle yesterday when informed by reporters that he had made USA Today.
The publication apparently ran a recent article listing the top matchups of the upcoming season.
No. 5 on the list? Wilson vs. the Toronto media.
"Boy they are giving you guys too much credit," Wilson told a scrum of 20 reporters, tongue planted firmly in cheek.
After calling the report "irrelevant," Wilson added one final quip.
"It's a battle I'd be heavily favoured in anyway," he joked.