Dear Mats Sundin,
I realize that you spend hours in the gym and on the ice every week trying to prepare yourself for the rigours of playing hockey at the NHL level. However, I also know (based on two very reliable sources) that you take the time to read every single comment and post made on this site so I thought I would clear a few things up.
First off, I was drooling at the prospect of your being traded. Visions of two picks out of the top five in the upcoming draft were dancing in my head along with dreams of Bobby Ryan and Steve Stamkos playing on either side of you next October. The very thought made my blue and white blood course rapidly through my veins and left me with an unbridled feeling of optimism and hope. (Two of the rarest commodities in the GTA.) I realized that the prospect of you returning on July 1st was a tad overzealous but can't a fan have dreams? Must we always wallow in doom and gloom, expecting the worst and predicting disaster?
My first reaction after reading that you had declined to waive your well deserved No-Trade Clause was disappointment. The dreams I mentioned above suddenly vanished into thin air, my optimism for the future was dealt a mortal blow and my hopes for a much needed injection of talented youth were dashed. "This was the chance," I thought. "This was the chance to turn things around! The chance to right this floundering ship! The chance to restore this franchise to the glory that it embodied oh so long ago!!"
But then I thought of something. Mats Sundin is not a commodity. Mats Sundin is not a chip to be tossed around a poker table. Mats Sundin is not some kind of Scandinavian currency to be taken advantage when its value is soaring and the Greenback is depressed by rising commodity prices and an impending debt crisis! Mats Sundin (that's you) is hands down the greatest thing that has happened to the Leafs and all Leaf fans in the last decade and a half.
The Leafs have not won Lord Stanley's cup during your tenure and, alas, it looks like they may not do so before it is up. Despite this ever-lengthening cup drought Leaf fans, myself included, still come out in droves. We still attend, watch or listen to every game on the edge of our seats. Why? Loyalty. We cheer for the Leafs with every ounce of our hearts and our souls every year. Our friends who cheer for Ottawa jeer at us and ridicule our "Maple Laffs" and don't get me started about my friends who cheer for Montreal. It just boils down to dedication; I can't explain it any other way.
I'm getting at something here. If we as fans cling so dearly to our dedication in the face of such disappointment then how can we be so unbelievably asinine that we can fume about someone else for being so dedicated to the very same thing that we are? How can we, as rational human beings, decry another person for displaying the utmost loyalty to, not only the Leafs, but to us: the Fans. I won't pretend to know what was going through your head when you made your decision to stay but I will speculate based on what you have said in recent days, weeks and months.
You aren't staying out of 'selfishness' because that's an absurd thing to even suggest. How would it be selfish to stay true to your fans and your teammates? It's arguable that it would be more selfish to leave and win a cup somewhere else. Perhaps you are staying with this club and not becoming a Senator, Red Wing, Duck etc. for exactly the same reasons why we have not become fans of those very teams. It's not easy to so suddenly switch allegiances after so long. Therefore, it would be the height of hypocrisy to even think of being angry at your decision. In fact, upon careful reflection all I can do is applaud your dedication and loyalty.
It's no secret that you have poured your heart and soul into this club and for that I am eternally thankful. The past 14 years have not been disastrous nor have they been stupendous but I shudder to think how close they might have come to the former without your constant and remarkable level of leadership, hard work, durability, consistency and class. What you have done in a blue and white sweater will remain unsurpassed for many years to come.
Any individual who feels the need to vent their frustrations with the Maple Leafs upon you is horribly mistaken and their ire is undoubtedly misplaced. What they are actually furious with is the almost impressive level of ineptitude displayed by MLSE and those who have managed this franchise since your arrival. You can hardly be blamed for creating this situation and so how can you, in all fairness, be held responsible for rectifying it?
So don't worry about those grumpy fans who hide behind the anonymity of their computer screens and keyboards and are so quick to become angry at that which they themselves are guilty of. When #13 is raised into the rafters of the ACC every one of them, if they have any shred of a soul, will applaud and perhaps even shed a tear at the thought of never again seeing Mighty Mats fighting for the puck behind the net or ripping a blistering slap shot over the shoulder of Miikka Kiprusoff. Pay their remarks no heed. They know not what they say.