The Big Swede retires

Former Leafs captain Mats Sundin is seen here celebrating one of his many playoff goals. (Sun...

Former Leafs captain Mats Sundin is seen here celebrating one of his many playoff goals. (Sun Media/Stan Behal)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:42 PM ET

Mats Sundin hung up his blades today, never having fulfilled his dream of bringing a Stanley Cup to Toronto.

But it certainly was fun watching him try, wasn't it?

For 13 seasons the big Swede was the face of the Leaf franchise, registering more goals (420) and points (987) than any other player in team history. Only fellow countryman Borje Salming had more assists.

Yet critics always pointed to the fact that Sundin was never able to lead Toronto to an appearance in the final, something that frustrated the smooth-skating centre over the years. It is a significant blemish on his resume that cannot be ignored.

But that's not how he should be remembered in Toronto.

Instead, when you reflect on Sundin’s time as a Leaf, just think of a legacy which provided fans at Maple Leaf Gardens and the Air Canada Centre the privilege of watching a future Hall of Famer flash his notable skills on a nightly basis.

Even as he announced his retirement at a packed press conference at Stockholm’s Grand Hotel this morning, one thing was certainly evident: You can take Mats Sundin out of Toronto. But you can’t take Toronto out of Mats Sundin.

“Toronto is and always will be my second home,” said Sundin, who gave special thanks to the Maple Leafs organization.

Sundin, an eight-time NHL all-star, is the leading all-time Swedish scorer in NHL history with 564 goals, 785 assists and 1,349 points. And while he never did win a Cup, captaining Sweden to an Olympic gold medal in 2006 did give his career some closure.

“It was a tough decision,” Sundin told reporters of his retirement. “It’s sad to tell you that my career as a pro hockey player is over.”

Drafted first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1989, Sundin came to Toronto five years later along with Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and a 1994 first-round pick as part of a blockbuster deal that sent fan favourite Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and a 1994 first-round draft pick to Quebec.

After lasting more than a decade in blue-and-white, Sundin spent the summer of 2008 debating if he should keep playing or not. He eventually signed a one-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks.

His farewell appearance at the Air Canada Centre earlier this year was a storybook ending, the type of theatre you had to see to believe.

Having received a standing ovation when he first stepped onto the ice at the ACC for the Canucks-Leafs tilt on Feb. 24, Sundin scored the game-winner in the shootout to give the Canucks a 3-2 victory. With tears welling up in his eyes, Sundin then waved to the cheering throng.

At the time, he was thanking them for their support over the years.

Now we know he was also waving goodbye.


Videos

Photos

Canoe Top Headlines