Wednesday, June 17, 2009
It was on this date in 1989 that Mats Sundin of Sweden became the first European player drafted first overall in the NHL entry draft when he was selected by the Quebec Nordiques. While players like Borje Salming had been participating in the NHL since the early seventies, and the numbers only increased with the success of Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson in the WHA, it was not until Sundin was picked first overall that a European player was taken with the top selection, proving that Europeans were now being seen as equals to the North American players.
Today's featured jersey is a 1996-97 Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin jersey. This jersey sports the assistant captain's "A", a sign of Sundin's increasing leadership on the club that would eventually lead to his long term captaincy. The jersey is completed with the 65th Anniversary of Maple Leaf Gardens patch. We do find it a bit odd that a club would commemorate a 65th Anniversary, especially since the Maple Leafs had no plans to move into the Air Canada Centre, being built for the NBA Toronto Raptors at the time. Perhaps we could understand the need of the Maple Leafs to celebrate the 65th anniversary if they knew they were not going to be there long enough to reach the 70th or 75th anniversary.
This is another jersey in the same vein as the Tampa Bay Lightning jersey, detailed earlier here at Third String Goalie, where the basic jersey remained unchanged from it's inception in 1992-93 through 2006-07 which evolved over time with the use of three different fonts for the numbers as well as a change in shoulder logos for the 2000-01 season.
In addition to those changes, a variety of patches were worn on this style jersey as the Stanley Cup had it's centennial, Maple Leaf Gardens had not only it's 65th Anniversary, but also it's Final Season, the Leafs hosted the All-Star Game the same season the NHL ushered in the millennium as well as various special one-off patches such as the one worn for the annual Hockey Hall of Fame Game hosted by the Maple Leafs, the Hockey Fights Cancer patch, the NHL Cares/Katrina patch and the Teammates for Kids patch.
The choice of Sundin proved to be a good one, as he has gone on to score 500 goals and 1000 points in his career.