As most of you probably know, that wonderful man pictured above announced his retirement today. The Mats Sundin era has ended in the NHL.
There really is not much to say about Mats that hasn't been said a million times before, he came on a bad note, and left on a worse one, but no one can deny the years in the middle were magical.
No, he didn't bring a cup, no he wasnt a top the NHL scoring race every year, and no, he wasn't Doug Gilmour or Wendel Clark.
All of that is irrelevant.
Mats Sundin is arguably the greatest Toronto Maple Leaf of all time. End. Point.
Mats Sundin was the hardest Leaf ever for me to accept into my heart. He came to my team at the expense of Wendel Clark, no easy barrier to over come, his style contradicted everything I expected out of a Toronto Maple Leaf, and later, everything I expected out of a Captain.
It pains me to admit that I once too was one of those haters, I drank my Mats Sundin haterade with regularity, and then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, I stopped.
Be it age, or wisdom or dark magic, I finally saw Mats for what he was. An exceptional hockey talent, a quiet, strong and stoic leader.
Captaun Clutch soon was my favourite Leaf, I embraced him, defended him, and cheered him.
Mats was my Captain, Leafs Nation's Captain. It broke my heart to see him called out time and time again for not delivering Stanley's chalice to Toronto, it never seemed fair that Dougie and Wendel didn't (to my memory at least) take similar abuse.
My Captain preformed exceptionally right up until the time that he, for reasons I don't understand and now respect, broke my heart.
The reason it hurt so much was because I knew he would never don the Blue and White again, and he would retire under a different banner.
I realize now that that doesn't matter Mats will always be a Toronto Maple Leaf.
Dougie and Wendel were the Captains of my youth, but I grew up watching Mats, he was my Captain through the hardest years of my life and he never let me down.
I will forever miss Mats, and that big goofy Swedish grin will forever be burned into my brain.
I take no heed to the haters, you out there that would bad mouth my bald headed hero, oh not you Sens and Habs fans, you don't matter. I'm talking about you so called Leaf fans who hate him for "screwing us" get over yourselves. If you don't love Mats, well that is your loss just don't open up your mouth and shit all over a player who deserves nothing but your thanks and praise.
I hold no reserves in saying I will fight you.
Gook luck Mats, we miss you. I cannot wait to see the day you get honored at the ACC and have your number raised to the rafters along side all the other players of your ilk.