Sometimes I wonder weird things. Like, for example, if Mats Sundin watches South Park.
The reason I come to South Park here is because of an episode called "The Return of Chef", where Chef, once voiced by Isaac Hayes, returns to the show acting very strangely before the episode culminates in his death. In reality, Hayes, a Scientologist, had left the show a season earlier because of an episode that mocked his religion, and the episode was written as a thinly veiled attack against Hayes and Scientology.
You are probably thinking I am not making a lot of sense here: South Park? Scientology? Isaac Hayes? What does this all have to do with Sundin, you are asking?
Well, the answer is not a whole lot, except the eulogy that Kyle delivers of Chef at the end of the episode is quite telling:
"We're all here today because Chef has been such an important part of our lives. A lot of us don't agree with the choices Chef has made in the past few days. Some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us. But we can't let the events of the last week take away the memories of how much Chef made us smile. I'm gonna remember Chef as the jolly old guy who broke into song. I'm gonna remember Chef as the guy who gave us advice to live by. So you see, we shouldn't be mad at Chef for leaving us."
Basically, substitute Chef for Sundin, and you can see what I am getting at here (minus breaking out into song and all that).
To be honest, I am mad as hell, too. Sundin vetoed removing a no-trade clause to accept a deal that would have drastically improved this team's prospects for the future because he said he did not want to be a rental player and that he loved Toronto. Fair enough.
But, then, 10 months after making those comments, Sundin goes ahead and becomes a rental player. He claimed he wanted to do the whole journey with a team, from training camp onwards, and yet will be reporting to his new team on December 27th.
He did in December precisely what he said he would not do in February, to say nothing of the fact he chose my non-Eastern arch-nemeses, the Vancouver Canucks, as his new team!
In short, I am p*ssed. How Sundin handled this entire situation has made my respect for him decrease greatly. And when he hits the ice at the Air Canada Centre on February 21st in the Orca logo of a sworn enemy, someone may have to restrain me from throwing something at my television.
But, after the buzz of this signing has worn off, after the Canucks leave Toronto and go on to a quick first or second round exist, and after Sundin parts ways with Vancouver, the excuse to continue being angry about this will cease to exist.
I am angry now, but I will not be forever. And neither should you.
For 13 seasons, Sundin bled the blue and white, and he was as loyal as they came. He was never given quality linemates that could elevate his potential, but he did not complain about playing with Jonas Hoglund or Alexei Ponikarovsky. He never called out a teammate for poor play. He never once complained about the direction of the team, but instead stoically soldiered on, giving the best effort he could.
For 13 seasons, Mats Sundin was the face of this franchise. He bent over backwards for them, and no Leaf fan should forget that.
Sundin made a big mistake here, and Leafs Nation ought to air their grievances with him when he comes to town. But, once all is said and done, 10 months of double speak and indecision do not negate 13 years poured into the team we all love.
Just as the creators of South Park forgave Isaac Hayes for being a Scientologist, so too must our fans forgive Sundin for what he did.