Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mats Sundin Week - 1997-98 Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin Jersey

Mats Sundin Week continues here at Third String Goalie as 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, reserving outright number retirement for those whose careers end due to misfortune while a member of the Maple Leafs following an outstanding career while playing for Toronto.

Sundin Maple Leafs Banners, Sundin Maple Leafs Banners

Sundin once again led the Maple Leafs in scoring during the 1997-98 season, his fourth consecutive season finishing atop the club in points.

The 1997-98 season saw Sundin participate in his third of seven consecutive NHL All-Star Games from 1996 to 2002. After missing the 2003 contest due to injury after being named to the game, he would be named to his eighth and final one in 2004.

During Sundin's first All-Star Game in 1996, he registered an assist for the Western Conference, something he would repeat in 1997.

Sundin All-Star, Sundin All-Star

He would tally another assist in the 1998 event for the World Team.

The 1999 contest would be a memorable one for Sundin, as he picked up one assist in the first period for the World Team before adding two more in the second, while the third period would see him score his first All-Star goal 2:57 into the third for a four point game.

After being held pointless in the 2000 All-Star Game in front of his home fans in Toronto, Sundin would get out of the gate quickly with two goals in the first period before adding an assist in both the second and third periods for another four point performance.

Sundin All-Star, Sundin All-Star
Sundin found himself on the opposite squad as Maple Leafs teammate Curtis Joseph

The 2002 edition of the All-Star Game saw Sundin pick up a pair of assists, including one on the game winning goal for the World Team.

Sundin All-Star, Sundin All-Star

After being forced to miss the 2003 game due to injury, Sundin's final All-Star Game in 2004 saw him contribute two assists for the victorious Eastern Conference.

Sundin All-Star, Sundin All-Star
The throwback style of 2004 was a long way from the futuristic jerseys of 2000

He would finish his All-Star career with eight appearances, three goals and 11 assists for 14 career points.

Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin jersey as worn during the 1998 NHL All-Star Game's SuperSkills competition.

While the 1996 and 1997 NHL All-Star Games were held in the traditional East vs. West format, the 1998 game in Vancouver would see a dramatic change in format, as this was also the first season of full scale NHL participation in the Olympic Games, which would take place just three weeks later in Japan.

To promote the international country vs. country competition of the Olympics, the new format for the All-Star Game was adopted, which saw players from Canada and the Untied States teamed up as "North America" taking on a squad of players who hailed from the rest of the world. While the players in the actual All-Star Game wore striking All-Star jerseys, adorned with patches to indicate not only which NHL club each player was a member of, each player's jersey also sported a flag patch identifying each player's particular nationality.

The unusual format had the result of dividing teammates, such as the case of Russian Pavel Bure of the host Vancouver Canucks playing for the World Team, while his Canadian teammate Mark Messier suited up for the North Americans!

What makes today's featured jersey unique, is that the players involved in that year's SuperSkills competition all wore their particular NHL team's jerseys only with the addition of the flag from their native country, the one and only time the flag patches would ever be worn on their NHL club team's jerseys.

Toronto Maple Leafs 97-98 AS Skills F
Toronto Maple Leafs 97-98 AS Skills B
Toronto Maple Leafs 97-98 AS Skills P

Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1998-99 Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin jersey as worn during the final season of play in Maple Leaf Gardens. Sundin led the club in scoring with 83 points that season, ten more than any other Maple Leaf and his fourth consecutive season leading the team in scoring.

In honor of their final games in Maple Leaf Gardens, the team introduced a beautiful new throwback alternate jersey which featured the "Memories and Dreams" patch to celebrate their long time home of 68 years.

Toronto would play their final game at Maple Leaf Gardens on February 13, 1999 before moving across downtown to their new home, the Air Canada Centre, on February 20th.

The throwback jersey was originally intended to be worn only in 1998-99, but proved so popular with the fans that it returned as the club's third jersey for the 2000-01 season. It would remain in use through the 2006-07 season before it was killed off by the change to the new Reebok Edge jerseys, only to return once again in, this time in Edge form, from 2008-09 to 2010-11. It would prove to be a very resilient style, with an eventual run of 13 years, although with a trio of breaks thrown in, the middle one being the 2004-05 season lost to the NHL lockout.

Toronto Maple Leafs 98-99 F
Toronto Maple Leafs 98-99 B
Toronto Maple Leafs 98-99 P

Today's video section begins with Sundin participating in the puck control relay in the 2002 Super Skills.

Next, some of the ceremony surrounding the last game at Maple Leaf Gardens, which includes Sundin taking part in the ceremonial opening faceoff along with former Maple Leaf Doug Gilmour, then with Chicago.

Finally, we take a look at the history of Maple Leaf Gardens.

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