Friday, November 16, 2012

2003 Sweden National Team Mats Sundin Jersey

The fourth member of the 2012 class of inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame was Mats Sundin, whose career began with the distinction of being 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.

Sundin Nordiques draft day, Sundin Nordiques draft day
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 Maple Leafs, Sundin Maple Leafs
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.

The Maple Leafs moved into the new Air Canada Centre in January of 1999 and Sundin finished the season as the team's leading scorer the fifth consecutive season while extending his 30 goal streak to four consecutive seasons. Toronto immediately made the deepest playoff run since Sundin's arrival in Toronto in 1994. The Maple Leafs finished the regular season with a 45-30-7 record for 97 points and entered the playoffs as the fourth seed in the east, drawing the Philadelphia Flyers as their opponents. Once the Flyers were dispatched in six closely fought games, four of them by a single goal, one of those in overtime, Toronto advanced to face the Pittsburgh Penguins, another series which went six games, with three one goal games, two of which required overtime.

While Toronto fell in five games to the Buffalo Sabres, Sundin would finish the postseason with a career high 16 points from 8 goals and 8 assists in 17 games.

After leading the club in scoring for the seventh consecutive season in 2000-01, the Maple Leafs would sweep their opening round series against inter-province rivals the Ottawa Senators before taking eventual cup finalists the New Jersey Devils to a full seven games. Sundin would play in 11 postseason games that year, scoring 6 times and totaling 13 points during a run of six consecutive playoff appearances for the Maple Leafs.

Sundin Maple Leafs, Sundin Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs 2001-02 season was one of celebration, as the franchise was recognizing their 75th Anniversary as the Maple Leafs. At the conclusion of the season, Sundin led the club in scoring for the eighth consecutive season, thanks in part to the third 40 goal season of his career with 41. While Toronto would once again reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002, Sundin would only see action in 8 of the Maple Leafs 20 playoff games due to an untimely wrist injury.

Sundin Maple Leafs St Patricks, Sundin Maple Leafs St Patricks
Sundin wearing the throwback Toronto St. Patricks jersey in honor of the team's 75th anniversary

In the 2002-03 season, Sundin continued his trademark durability and reliability, as he played in 75 of the Maple Leafs 82 games, keeping intact his streak of at least 73 games played every season of his NHL career, save the strike shortened 1994-95 season when he played in 47 games of the 48 game schedule.

Sundin Maple Leafs, Sundin Maple Leafs

Offensively, Sundin scored 41 goals, which tied him for the second highest of his career and his most in five seasons. He also added 39 assists for 80 total points, which would prove to be the 6th highest of his career. More significantly, Sundin became the first Swedish player in NHL history to reach 1,000 career points with a goal in a 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on March 10, 2003 and followed that two weeks later by playing in his 1,000th career game, also a first for a Swede.

Sundin Maple Leafs, Sundin Maple Leafs

After having his streak of consecutive seasons leading Toronto in points when Alexander Mogilny topped Sundin 79 points to 72, he began a new streak by leading the Maple Leafs in points after scoring 31 goals and 44 assists for 75 points. Additionally, Sundin guided the Maple Leafs into the postseason for the sixth consecutive season. His 75 points marked the 12th consecutive full season of over 70 points for the Maple Leafs captain.

Sundin Maple Leafs, Sundin Maple Leafs

After the 2003-04 season, during which Sundin led the Maple Leafs in scoring for the ninth time in ten seasons, the 2004-05 NHL season was eventually cancelled due to the owners locking out the players. While 388 NHL players played in Europe during the season, with 75 of those in the Swedish Elitserien, the 33-year-old Sundin chose to sit out the year.

When play resumed in the 2005-06 season, Sundin had the misfortune of being struck in the eye with a puck seven minutes into the game on opening night, the first game back after the lockout, which also broke an orbital bone in his face, sidelining him for a month.

Sundin Eye Injury, Sundin Eye Injury

With his teammates given an unexpected 12 game head start on their captain, they could still not hold off the eager Swede once he returned to the ice. Benefitting from the new rules package which eliminated obstruction, Sundin matched his goal total from his last complete season while exceeding his number of assists to finish with 31 goals and 47 assists for 78 points, three more than in 2003-04 and ten more than any Maple Leaf that season. Had Sundin been able to compete in all 82 games that season, he was on pace for 91 points.

In 2006-07, Sundin joined an exclusive club in fine style, as he became the 35th player and first Swede to reach the 500 goal mark, which he did in unbelievable style with a shorthanded, unassisted game winning goal in overtime to complete a hat trick! The goal gave the Maple Leafs a 5-4 win over the Calgary Flames in from of a delirious home crowd at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Sundin 500th goal, Sundin 500th goal
Sundin celebrates his 500th NHL goal

"It's an achievement not many players have reached in this league and, once I'm retired, I'm going to appreciate it even more. It's a special way to get it. I'll remember this day throughout my whole life," Sundin said following the game.

Sundin also had an assist during the game to give him four points on the memorable night. The final goal was his 15th overtime goal of his career, the most in NHL history at the time and a record he still shares with Sergei Fedorov, Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr.

Even Flames captain Jarome Iginla had to admire Sundin on the night. "He was really going tonight. It was an amazing shot on that last goal. Not many people would have stopped that. He got a screen and he got it all. You don't want to call it a nice goal, but it was impressive," said Iginla.

Sundin Maple Leafs, Sundin Maple Leafs
Sundin wearing the Teammates for Kids patch in January of 2007

The 2007-08 season would prove to be Sundin's final season with the Maple Leafs and it was a memorable one for many reasons. On October 11th, Sundin broke the franchise record for most points with his 917th and, later in the same game, he registered his 390th goal which moved him into the franchise lead in that category as well, supplanting Darryl Sittler in both categories and earning first, second and third star of the game in the process.

He later became the first player in history to score 400 goals while with the club before later breaking an 83-year-old record for the longest home scoring streak with a point in his 15th consecutive game.

Somewhat controversially, he refused to waive his no trade clause late in the season, stating he did not want to be a rental player, and if he won the Stanley Cup, he wanted to do so over the course of an entire season. Staying with the club allowed him to lead the team in scoring that season for the 12th time in his 13 seasons with the Maple Leafs. He also holds the NHL record for the longest serving European born captain of an NHL franchise, at 10 seasons, and is one of only two players to record 20 goals in his first 17 NHL seasons.

Sundin Maple Leafs, Sundin Maple Leafs

He would play one final season in the NHL, signing a free agent contract after the first of the year, which allowed him to play in 41 games of the 2008-09 season, scoring 9 goals and 28 points to push his final career totals to 564 goals (2oth on the all-time list) and 785 assists (32nd all-time) for 1,349 points (27th all-time) in 1,346 games. He leads all Swedish players in all three categories as well as holding the record for the Most Games Played by a European born and trained forward.

In February of 2012, Sundin was honored by the Maple Leafs when they added his jersey #13 to the ranks of the numbers honored by the franchise at the Air Canada Centre.

Sundin #13, Sundin #13

Today's featured jersey is a 2003 Sweden National Team Mats Sundin jersey. Sundin had a long and successful international career playing for Sweden, beginning in 1989 at the European Junior Championships. In 1990, he played at both the European and World Juniors before making his senior level debut in fine style, winning a gold medal at the 1991 World Championships. Later that same year me joined the world's elite at the 1991 Canada Cup.

Another gold medal followed at the 1992 World Championships and a bronze arrived at the 1994 Worlds. Sundin next skated at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996 and won his third goal medal at the 1998 Worlds after his first Olympics earlier that same year.

He then competed at the 2001 Worlds, the 2002 Winter Olympics, the 2003 World Championships, earning a silver medal, the 2004 World Cup and capped off his international career in the best possible way with a gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

His final tally would be three gold, one silver and two bronze at the World Championships to go along with his gold medal at the Olympics while often serving as team captain.

Sweden 2003 jersey, Sweden 2003 jersey
Sweden 2003 jersey, Sweden 2003 jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2001 NHL All-Star Game Mats Sundin jersey. Sundin was named to the NHL All-Star Game nine consecutive times, from 1996 to 2004, although he was forced to miss the 2003 game due to injury.

After wearing some really nice looking jerseys the previous two All-Star Games, the NHL came up with some rather unattractive jerseys as a result of everyone being just a little too excited for the overblown Millennium. While not as bad as Major League Baseball's "Turn Ahead the Clock" jerseys worn in 1999, these NHL All-Star jerseys certainly had a futuristic "Star Trek" feel too them.

Oddly, the "World" team wore red and the "North America" team wore blue - dark vs. dark - while the goalies for both teams wore white jerseys(!), not unlike a soccer match where the goalkeepers wear a distinctly different color from the rest of the squad. Additionally, the World team had the player names below the numbers while the North Americans kept their names in the traditional location above the numbers.

While the oddity of these jerseys could be justified for the game in 2000, unfortunately the game in Denver in 2001 also stayed with the Millennium jerseys one time too many.

NHL All-Star Game 2001 jersey, NHL All-Star Game 2001 jersey
NHL All-Star Game 2001 jersey, NHL All-Star Game 2001 jersey

Today's video section begins with Sundin being selected first overall at the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.

Next, Sundin scoring his 1,000th NHL point with a goal in a 302 win over Edmonton on March 30th, 2003.

Such was the level of Sundin's popularity that he regularly appeared in TV commercials. Here's a classic one with Wayne Gretzky for McDonald's.

Not everyone was a fan of Sundin however...

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