Monday, February 6, 2012
The Toronto Maple Leafs are set to honor former captain Mats Sundin by adding his jersey #13 to the ranks of the numbers honored by the franchise this Saturday at the Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs are unique in their policy of honoring a player's number, but allow those honored numbers to again be worn by future players.
In order to have a number taken permanently out of circulation and fully retired by the Maple Leafs, a player not only has to have made a significant contribution to the club, he must have suffered the misfortune of experiencing a career-ending incident while a member of the Maple Leafs as well. To date, only two members of the Maple Leafs have been bestowed with full retirement of their sweater, Ace Bailey, whose career ended as a result of a severe head injury at the hands of Eddie Shore in 1933, and Bill Barilko, who disappeared after scoring the cup winning goal in overtime of the 1951 Stanley Cup Finals while on a flight home from a fishing trip over the summer.
Sundin was the first European player drafted with the number one overall pick in NHL history when the Quebec Nordiques selected him with the first pick in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.
The #1 overall pick in 1989, Mats Sundin
He led the Nordiques in scoring with a career high 47 goals and 114 points in 1992-93 before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the summer of 1994 in a blockbuster deal which saw six players, including Maple Leafs team captain and fan favorite Wendel Clark, and a two first round draft picks change hands.
Sundin immediately led the Maple Leafs in scoring in 1994-95 during the strike-shortened season with 47 points in 47 games.
Sundin early in his career with Toronto, as evidenced by the lack of an "A" or a "C" on his jersey
In 1996-97, Sundin became the 16th, and first European, captain in franchise history following the trade of current captain Doug Gilmour on February 25, 1997. Sundin would set a record as the longest serving European-born and trained captain in NHL history as he remained the Maple Leafs team leader for ten seasons.
Today's featured jersey is a 1996-97 Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin jersey. This home white jersey as worn during Sundin's third season with Toronto when he registered the second 40 goal season of his career with 41, and led the team in scoring for the third consecutive season.
This jersey features both the assistant captain's "A" and the Maple Leaf Gardens 65th Anniversary patch, which was worn throughout the season.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1996-97 Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin jersey. This is the road blue mate to the home white jersey worn early in Sundin's time with the Maple Leafs prior to his becoming the Maple Leafs team captain.
Extra Bonus Jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1996-97 Toronto Maple Leafs Heritage Mats Sundin jersey. This special jersey was worn only twice by the Maple Leafs, once against the Montreal Canadiens and the other versus the Detroit Red Wings, in celebration of the 65th Anniversary of their long time home, Maple Leaf Gardens.
Sundin wearing the 1996-97 Heritage jersey
The retail version of this jersey, the style worn back in 1931 when Maple Leaf Gardens first opened, was sold only through the Maple Leafs team store, LeafSport. It was produced in only authentic sizes 48 and 52 and limited to only 1,931 examples, all of which were uncustomized. Each jersey is numbered with an embroidered tag sewn inside the collar, as shown below. It's attractive throwback design, limited distribution and low production numbers have made it one of the most desirable and sought after jerseys among collectors.
Our jersey was painstakingly researched and customized with Sundin's number 13 and assistant captain's "A" in the exact fonts worn on the ice.
Today's video section begins with Sundin coming the first European ever selected first overall when the Nordiques chose him with the first pick in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. Uh, nice hat, Mats. We believe it's the first stovepipe baseball cap in world history.
Our next video is a tribute to Maple Leaf Gardens, whose 65th Anniversary was celebrated with a commemorative patch as well as the Maple Leafs beautiful Heritage Jersey, worn twice during the 1996-97 season.