While the news of Mats Sundins' decision to retire will undoubtedly be met with a wide range of responses, I for one cannot help but feel saddened by it. Say what you will, the NHL lost one of its greatest competitors today.
Over his 13 years in the blue and white Sundin was the epitome of class and competitiveness, and exhibited all of the qualities that made him one of the best captains we have ever had.
And while there are many who still criticize him for the circumstances surrounding his exodus from Toronto last summer, in the end we need to remember that this man gave his heart and soul every night for our team, often singlehandedly willing something extraordinary to happen. Perhaps the most memorable game I have ever had the honour of witnessing Sundin play in came on October 14, 2006, the night he scored his 500th goal. I'm sure that the majority of the details are well known to many, but to watch him rocket a slapshot over Miikka Kiprusoff's blocker in overtime to notch not only his 500th and the game-winner, but to complete a hat-trick, was pure magic. Following that up barely a year later by becoming not only the highest scoring player in franchise history, but also the only Leaf to score 400 goals for the team, Sundin left his mark all throughout our history books.
So while I will agree that it is a relief to know that "The Sundin Saga: Part II" has been thankfully avoided, it is still with a measure of remorse that we must say goodbye to one of the classiest, most respectful players the game has ever seen. Loyal to a fault, Mats Sundin will be remembered as one the the greatest Maple Leafs to ever lace them up, as he should be.
Congratulations Mats on a fantastic career, and thank you from the bottom of this Leafs fan's heart. We'll miss you...