Even though Mats Sundin no longer wears the white and blue, it doesn't mean that he doesn't hold a special place in the hearts of the many legions of Leafs fans throughout the province of Ontario.
This point was best shown during the first period of Saturday's game between the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs, when MLSE played a video on the Jumbo-tron honoring their former captain in front of a capacity crowd.
Many were curious as to what kind of reaction Sundin would receive from the Leafs faithful on Saturday, but that question was quickly answered, when during the video tribute, he was a given a standing ovation lasting roughly three minutes.
It was clear that not everyone shared those same sentiments, but I was among those cheering and clapping on my feet, even though I was watching the game from my living room.
I have continued to cheer for Sundin during his tenure with Vancouver. Indeed, I wish I was able to watch their games more, as I have become an instant fan of the Canucks when the Leafs are not playing on a particular night.
Even though some may argue that the circumstances behind Sundin leaving Toronto have hurt the Leafs in the long run, I tend to disagree.
With Mats being asked to waive his no-trade clause last spring, many felt that a trade involving the superstar would bring in some much-needed young talent, as well as a few draft picks. However, this was not to be, as Sundin refused to leave the city he had played in for the past 13 years.
And he deserved the right to do that, in my mind. Even though at the time it did make me somewhat angry at what I viewed was a selfish move on his behalf, looking back, it was his choice to make, and he made the right decision. Sundin ended his time in Toronto on his own terms, and I am glad that he did.
As for the standing ovation that he received Saturday night, those that argue that he betrayed the Leafs in refusing a trade will also argue that he didn't deserve to be honored as such. To put it flat out, these people are wrong.
Sundin served 13 years with the Leafs, being captain for his final 10 seasons. In the Toronto organization he holds most of the records, leading the franchise in such career categories as goals and points.
Notwithstanding his offensive contribution to the franchise, he also was one of the most beloved captains in team history. There are those that believe he was not a leader, and merely held the captaincy because of his skill. But he was a good captain, just ask any of the men that he played with while in Toronto.
Lets just face it, Sundin is one of the all time greatest Leafs, especially in terms of this generation of fans. Sundin will always have a place in the hearts of Maple Leaf fans (mine included), and I look forward to a few years down the road when the No. 13 is raised to its rightful place in the rafters of the Air Canada Centre.