HHOF Profile: Mats Sundin

There are plenty of great leaders throughout the NHL and many of them find their way to the Hockey Hall of Fame when all is said and done. These players are the ones who can be on a team and bring a group of individuals together for one cause. There are plenty of forms of leaders as some may be outspoken while others leave their play to do most of the talking. Leaders can achieve a goal of getting a team together in many different ways and there have been many successful leaders in the NHL. The NHL is a league that highlights their leaders in a different way than most. Other leagues have captains but many are changed from week to week or game to game. The NHL takes a different approach as teams name captains and put a C on the chest of the chosen player. It is a symbol for all players and fans to know that player is the leader of the team. This can be a blessing and a curse as the teams successes and failures will fall on the person with the C. Some can handle it and do it well while others are not born leaders and struggle with the pressure of being responsible for more than themselves. This pressure only increases when a player goes to one of the major markets and is named captain. Two of the worst places to be a captain could be Montreal and Toronto where hockey is more than just a sport. Every move that any player makes in these two cities is analyzed and watched and becomes front page news on a daily basis. Add to that the pressure of being the leader of the team and you can see that it takes a special talent and a special personality to be able to be the captain of these teams. The Maple Leafs found such a person in the 1990s as Mats Sundin would lead the team for years.

Mats Sundin was a special personality that allowed him to lead one of the highest pressure markets in the NHL. He did it and did it well for over a decade as he would continuously lead the Leafs to the playoffs. Of course he did not win the Stanley Cup with the team but the fact that he is the last captain to lead the Leafs to the playoffs makes him a part of the Maple Leafs lore. He has become a favorite in Toronto but his career there did not start that way as he would replace the all-time fan favorite for Torontonians. Sundin was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in 1989 and became the first non-North American player to be drafted with the #1 pick. In three seasons with the Nordiques Sundin would get better every year finishing his third year with 114 points. After his third season Sundin would be traded by Quebec with a number of other players to Toronto in exchange for a group of players that included Wendel Clark. It was not a popular move by the Leafs as Clark was a fan favorite that nobody wanted to see go. The doubts would quickly subside though as the lockout shortened 1995-96 season would see Sundin lead the team in scoring. The next year Sundin would be named the team captain after a midseason trade of Doug Gilmour vacated the spot. Sundin would remain the captain until 2008 when he took a year off from the NHL and eventually signed with the Vancouver Canucks for his last year. Sundin was a great player scoring over 550 goals and earning more than 1,500 points throughout his career. More than that, he was a calming influence on the ice as he almost always seemed in control. Add to this that he was a trailblazer for Swedish players in the NHL and Sundin became a legend both in Toronto and in Europe. He will remain a legend for years to come as well when he enters the Hall of Fame this year in the place that he built his career and became a hero to the fans.

Mats Sundin, C (1990-2009)
Toronto Maple Leafs (13 seasons)
1,346 GP
564 G
785 A
1,349 pts
1,093 PIM
Mark Messier Leadership Award (2008)
NHL All-Star (1996-2004)
Also played for Quebec Nordiques and Vancouver Canucks

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