Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Best Games in 2011 To Retire Mats Sundin's Number
He holds several Leaf records, including goals and points. He is the most celebrated Leaf player of the modern era and while his departure from the Leafs left a sour taste in the mouth of Leafs Nation, he was still given a standing ovation his next game back inside the Air Canada Centre as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
Some wonder when No. 13 will hang from the rafters with such greats as Borje Salming, Darryl Sittler and Doug Gilmour. For argument's sake, this year is a great year to do it. The Leafs are on the rise with a young core of players and what better way to celebrate the last time the Leafs were this good than to honour the man who captained them to two Conference Finals appearances?
It is always nice to be witness to a ceremony such as this, and for something of this magnitude, you have to do it at the right moment. When will Sundin's number go up? Who will it be against? Here are five teams that could bear witness to this event.
Vs. Ottawa Senators on October 8
The first Hockey Night in Canada telecast would be a great setting for such an occasion. When Sundin and the Leafs were tearing it up in the playoffs in the early millennium, they frequently ran into their provincial rival Ottawa Senators.
The Leafs eliminated the Senators every year they met in the postseason and by doing this ceremony on this night, it could boost the morale of Leaf players and help them get through October on a good note, something the Leafs aren't really known for.
Vs. Colorado Avalanche on October 17
A cozy Monday night affair against a Western Conference team could be a good setting.
Plus, the Avalanche (then known as the Quebec Nordiques) drafted Sundin first overall in the 1989 NHL Draft. The Leafs don't have much history against the Avalanche, but it could provide a spark to two teams that missed the playoffs last year.
It also could be beneficial for Leafs TV as this game has the potential to be the first one on the broadcast schedule for the channel. Making this ceremony exclusive to the Leafs' own channel could mean more subscriptions to the television channel and online broadcasts.
Vs. Boston Bruins on November 5
Mats Sundin's years in Toronto were successful ones, but he couldn't do the one thing the Leafs last did in 1967.
Getting to retire a number on a Saturday night broadcast is one thing. Doing it against a divisional rival and defending Stanley Cup champion is something memorable evenings are made of.
The Bruins also are an Original Six team that could provide the extra nostalgia that the Leafs would want for an evening that everyone will remember forever.
Vs. Vancouver Canucks on December 17
The last team that Sundin played for was the Vancouver Canucks. The last time the Canucks and Leafs met with Sundin on the bench, we were witness to a moment that is still replayed by YouTube-happy Leaf fans everywhere who want to remember the good old days, which feel like centuries ago.
The Canucks are an elite team in the NHL, coming within a game of winning the Stanley Cup last year. If the Leafs need some inspiration to play their hearts out against a Western Conference juggernaut, this could be just what the doctor ordered.
Vs. Montreal Canadiens on January 21
Having a ceremony like this before a game between the NHL's two oldest franchises? Sign me up!
The Leafs and Habs are the oldest rivalry in hockey and have been the setting for some great hockey moments.
The Leafs open the season against the Habs on October 6, but with everything that comes along with a season opener, a jersey retirement ceremony like this could lose its luster in the shadows of a new season.
On the other hand, what better way to open a season filled with hopes and dreams than with a ceremony to remember a past captain?
Still, if it's a game against the Habs that they retire Sundin's number, it shouldn't be the season opener, but on January 21, the last Saturday night before the All-Star break.
Will Sundin have his number retired in 2011-12? Will it be in one of these games? What do you think?