Loyalty buys Sundin abuse of Leafs fans

A tale of two captains: how would Habs fans react if Koivu made the same call as Sundin?
Dave Sandford, Getty Images

You can’t win: Mats Sundin, one of roughly seven million players rumoured to be coming to the Canadiens by tomorrow’s trade deadline, decides he wants to finish the season, at least, as a Toronto Maple Leaf, refusing yesterday to waive his no-trade clause.

And his loyalty to the franchise, after being told by the club that they want to unload him, is to have fans rip him for selfishness, i.e., not letting the Leafs rebuild for what they might get in exchange for him. This is after Sundin chose to stay, and honour a contract which gives him the right to do so … which the club gladly signed before saying it wants to dump him.

I’m not the world’s biggest Mats Sundin fan, but I say good for him. And yet he’s shredded for his loyalty. What am I missing here?

(And while there’s no suggestion that the Canadiens have similarly asked captain Saku Koivu to waive his NTC, what would the reaction be among Habs fans if they did and Koivu responded as Sundin has?)


  1. Sbah Reverof says:

    Leaf fans need a reminder, from time to time, of what the Cup looks like.

  2. Blitzen says:

    It’s not Sundin’s problem that the Laffs can’t draft worth a damn or trade away their youth for stiffs.
    Remember February 19th: The Comeback

  3. ZepFan2 says:

    “The Leafs are in desperate need to rebuild. Sundin knows this. By not even helping as far as just being a “rental” player is concerned is selfish. Hats off to his loyalty, but he should put his team first. By not waiving his rightful NTC, he is denying the Leafs prospects/draft picks which they desperately need.”

    I couldn’t have said it better!

    He and the rest of the hockey World knew he’d be going back to the laffs in the summer. Why not waive your ntc so the team can get the necessary prospects to help the team and Mats Sundin in the long run.

    I would applaud Koivu if the roles were reversed and he waived his ntc, knowing full well he’d be back here next year helping and playing with the new players his team acquired for his ‘rental’.

  4. Ian G Cobb says:

    Selfish.!! A contract was signed by both parties, a legal contract, does that not mean anything to you. Maybe learn a new word, HONOUR.!!!!

  5. ddawwidd says:

    Oh, how I would like to go opposite way 😉

  6. Blitzen says:

    If the Habs ever make a trade with the Laffs they should ask that the Hall of Fame be added in.
    Remember February 19th: The Comeback

  7. RH says:

    A contract is a contract. If there’s a NTC in that contract, then that has to be upheld. What’s the point of a contract if it’s not going to be honoured? Now, if players were paid by the hour……

  8. RGM says:

    I dislike him immensely because of his team colours, but I have a sense of respect for Mats for sticking to his guns and remaining consistent in his position. He said, from the outset, that he did not want to leave Toronto. Even after the organization tried to throw him under the bus, he stuck with that decision despite what must have been a somewhat devastating acceptance that the organization which he has carried the flag for for 14 years wanted to be rid of him. They signed a contract which stated he cannot be traded without his permission; I don’t know what, if any, leverage was used by the Sundin camp to get that clause inserted (i.e. did he threaten to walk?) and it’s really not relevant. The club and player agreed to those terms, and the club chose to put the cart before the horse by trying to make a move for him when he had not consented to being moved.

    Would this ever happen to Saku and Montreal? Truly, I hope not. There are few NHL’ers for whom I have more respect and admiration for than our captain. Yes he takes too many penalties, yes he’s not scoring like he was last year, yes he appears to be fading out as a major offensive threat. But it’s Saku. I realize that we live in a world where Wayne Gretzky got traded. But Saku is as much the core of this team as any individual has been in a couple decades. That may not mean he’s been the captain charging towards the latest Stanley Cup glory, but when you think of the Montreal Canadiens from 1996 to the present, one person’s name stands out above all others.

    I truly hope that the organization would never so publicly embarrass this man after all they have been through together. It would be a damn shame to see what’s been going on with Mats come around and hound our team, our players, our captain in the same way.

    See you April 5th at the Bell Centre!

  9. Dave Stubbs says:

    So the Leafs can sign out the Stanley Cup like a sterling library book any time they want?

    Dave Stubbs

    Habs Inside/Out
    Sports Feature Writer, Montreal Gazette


  10. showey47 says:

    Because its the only way to get the stanley cup in toronto.

  11. Blitzen says:

    Someone remind me: why is the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto again?
    Remember February 19th: The Comeback

  12. Blitzen says:

    Sooooooooooooooo, what do you think the Laffs will be able to get for McCabe to help their rebuilding process? I’m guessing a 2nd or 3rd rounder and a middling prospect. If they’re lucky.

    That is one messed up organization. On the bright side for them is that they may be lining themselves up at the Stamkos/Tavares trough, although retaining Sundin – who will likely play as well as he can to show the fans he cares for the Maple Leafs – may hamper that.
    Remember February 19th: The Comeback

  13. von says:

    The situations are apples and oranges.

    The Leafs are in desperate need to rebuild. Sundin knows this. By not even helping as far as just being a “rental” player is concerned is selfish. Hats off to his loyalty, but he should put his team first. By not waiving his rightful NTC, he is denying the Leafs prospects/draft picks which they desperately need.

    The Habs and Koivu however, have a strong, young team and therefore wouldn’t be such a big deal if Koivu was asked to accept a trade (which I hope doesn’t happen.) Montreal still has plenty of assets that they could use.

    The Leafs meanwhile, MVP was Sundin who would have brought the most in. Scratch his name off the list, and the buyers are a lot less impressed.

    This is also bad news for the Habs, as the list of “impact” players just got a whole lot smaller. Not to mention, teams are going to be a whole lot more desperate.

    Forget Hossa, go for Jokinen. Still will be under contract, and is the big center we’ve always wanted. Plus, Olli might just inspire fellow country-man Saku to pick it up!

  14. drdrew85 says:

    Andrew J. Santos

    As far as would habs fans be like leaf fans and backlash on their captain? i strongly don’t believe so because the habs aren’t in the same position as the leafs are now as far as standings go and the teams future.

  15. Verduner says:

    This scenario represents exactly what is wrong with the owners, and players/agents.

    NOBODY…should be able to tell their employer who has just paid them millions (for no matter how long),the “where, when, and if”, when it comes to a trade.

    The owners/GM’s have allowed this to happen…so now they can all sit back and enjoy their mess.


  16. Chris says:

    We even have a similar story of our own: Mats Naslund left the Habs to go play in Switzerland and Sweden so that his children could grow up in a European lifestyle.

  17. TC says:

    Aside from both being captains the differences between Koivu and Sundin are immense.

    -obviously the two teams are going in different directions and are in opposite situations

    -Mats Sundin remains a top flight NHL player, a future Hall of Famer, a man who is still a first line centre, who as this year has shown us can be difference maker this spring.

    -Saku Koivu appears to be entering the downside of his solid career, has been relegated to a second line player, and is arguably, not fulfilling that role for this year’s Canadiens.

    -if the Canadiens were to think of trading Koivu I would think the market would be dwarfed by a potential Sundin market

    As much as I love Saku Koivu, for all he’s contributed to the Habs both on and off the ice, realistically he has never been an elite NHL player like Mats Sundin. Despite my love for the Habs and hatred all things Leaf it is impossible to deny the truth.


  18. habitual says:

    Well, Dave, you seem to have pulled off the improbable, if not the down right incomprehensible: generating sympathy for a much disliked rival.

    If there is angst and flagellation in Leaf land, it should be self-flagellation by the fans. Filling the building every year equals no impetus for the ownership to do anything but count gait receipts.

  19. Sbah Reverof says:

    “I cannot leave my teammates and join another NHL Club at this time. I have never believed in the concept of a rental player. It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June. I hope everyone will understand and respect my decision.”
    Good for you, Sundin.
    For shame, Toronto.

  20. Bill H says:

    IF the Canadiens publicly asked Koivu to waive his NTC, then yes, I think he would be crucified by the press. Let’s face it, it comes close to that now with questions about his skill level, what he brings to the team, his salary, and his reluctance to speak French publicly.

    Players who have made such an important contribution to their clubs over the years, players like Koivu and Sundin, hold a special place. That current Leaf management does not recognize that will likely come back and bite them on the ass, as it has for 40 years.

    I hope that the day never comes that Koivu is put in the same situation as Sundin. I hope that some day, after he lifts the Stanley Cup over his head, that his number is hoisted up into the rafters to join the others. That would show proper respect for Koivu, as well as proper respect for the Montreal Canadiens legacy.

  21. showey47 says:

    no where in the article does it say if we were in the same position of the laffs in the way of prospects,lousy team, no future. All it says is if we wanted to trade koivu and he refused to waive his ntc and he refused. It may not be the scenerio in laff land but it is the scenerio portrayed in the article.

  22. bigjames says:

    depends where the trade was to. i think i remember larry robinson saying he would quit before being traded to the bruins and having to play the habs 6 times a year or however many times they played eachother back then. as it was, robinson was traded to the kings, which is like playing on another planet as far as i am concerned. and despite that one cup final showdown, mtl/kings is not exactly a stirring rivalry. but just try to picture robinson in a bruins uniform. i have tried and i cannot conjur it up.

  23. RS says:

    As far as I can tell, Leafs fans are split on this issue. Just as Habs fans would be.

    I respect Sundin’s decision. While I understand the Leafs’ motives, they played this one poorly. So what else is new?

  24. CDK says:

    I think it would be prudent to say that only a small proportion of Leaf fans are ripping Sundin for being selfish. Living in Toronto, I’m surrounded by Leaf fans and every one of them is rather proud of Sundin’s decision. Most fans claim that it’s about time somebody in that organization displayed loyalty and dedication. Perhaps, he’ll represent a new standard for younger Leafs to follow.

  25. RS says:

    Don’t count your chickens…

    That last game of the year may still be vital to the Habs and their playoff hopes. And if the Leafs could prevent the Habs from getting into the playoffs, it would be their Stanley Cup game.

  26. 24 Cups says:

    Sundin signed a one year contract with the Lousy Leafs at slightly below market value so they could make other moves related to the cap (signing Blake). All contracts are negotiated and the no trade clause was part of that deal (which is no different than a union bargaining for an improved dental plan as part of their overall package). Sundin has certainly kept up his part of the bargain as his play has been outstanding this year. And he never gets to centre a Heatley or an Iginla. Is it Sundin’s fault that Toronto never drafted and developed any good kids? Is it his fault that they always made quick fix deals at the deadline? Or that Ferguson gave all his UFA’s no trade clauses? I’m obviously no Leaf fan, but I do live outside Toronto and I can tell you that Sundin has served the Leafs well over the years, both as a player and as a captain. Could you imagine how far down in the standings they would be this year if they didn’t have him?

    Dave Stubbs used the words honour and loyalty in his story. It’s difficult to see how those words apply to the Leafs’ hockey team of the past 40 years. Just ask Dave Keon.

    The Original 24 Cups

  27. TC says:

    If I’m a player and the team agree’s to give me a no-trade contract I’m going to feel a certain sense of security. What is often overlooked in these cases is the life Mats Sundin has built up for himself in Toronto.

    Quite often, we overlook the personal sides of these players and focus only on the professional side.

    And as for the Leafs they’re the ones handing out the no-trade clauses. Now they’re paying the price. I for one, won’t shed a tear.


  28. Björn says:

    @Morenz7: Very good post ! I can only agree.

  29. 93miraclecup says:

    then that’s hardly the same scenario. The comparison is, how would hab fans react if the habs were in the leafs’ position? Lousy team, no prospects, seemingly no future, and there was an opportunity to make the situations better by moving Koivu…
    Hab fans would want him to go if it would improve the team.

  30. Habsfan39 says:

    I would be sad if and when the day comes that Koivu goes to another team. I Could see him maybe going to minnesota some day to play with his Bro, if and when that ever becomes a possibility.

    That would probably be the only circumstance that I would be ok with him leaving. Or maybe if he were to pull a Ray Bourque.

    But I dont think we will ever be put in this kind of situation with respect to Koivu. Montreal, with the way they are looking and the direction this team continues to head, montreal is clear of any danger of becoming a perennial loser before koivu’s career is up.

    Koivu probably will continue to decline a bit next year, as he did this year. He wont be a huge cap hit like Sundin will probably be next year should he decide to continue playing.


  31. N.B.habs fan says:

    It would be the same if Koivu were to not give up his NTC.We allready have fans that want to trade him ,because he gets too many penalites.

  32. 24 Cups says:

    “even rats know when it’s time to leave the sinking ship” – I take it we’re now talking about Darcy Tucker:-)

    The Original 24 Cups

  33. Morenz7 says:

    re Koivu:

    My personal reaction would be shame on the Canadiens. In the NHL, players and managers alike never get tired of excusing cynical transactions by saying, “It’s a business.” Well, if Saturday’s ceremony reminds us of anything, it is that, where Montreal is concerned, it is more than just a business—that where certain players are concerned, the clichés just won’t do. Unless he wishes to be traded, Koivu should play out his days in a Montreal jersey—just as Gainey did. It would all the more special, given how much player movement we see in today’s NHL.

    Toronto fans feel the same about Mats. And true to form, the Leafs are managing to prove the same point the wrong way. I live in this god-forsaken town, and trust me: for all the fans who might be miffed at Sundin for not peddling his ass for pocket full of promises, there are many more who see him as a special Leaf. They have been touched by his desire not to pull on some other team’s sweater, and they are appalled that the club has put him in this position,. He’s not the one who ruined the team, after all. Asking him to waive his no-trade clause may look like good business, but considering how much of their souls Leaf fans pour into this team, it’s tin-eared hockey management.

  34. Jay in PA says:

    Sundin to leafs fans: I love you, my darlings, and I will never leave you.
    leafs fans to Sundin: If you really loved us, you’d get out of the way so we could date someone younger.
    Sundin to leafs fans: And for this I spent half my career sharing a dressing room with Darcy Tucker?

  35. showey47 says:

    I don’t think hab fans would abuse koivu if he refused to waive his clause. First of all, our situation and the laffs are totally different. We are so deep in prospects its almost embarrassing , the laffs cupboards are bare. Second of all, we would not get nearly the same return for koivu as toronto would get for sundin. Whatever we got in a trade for saku would never be able to replace him immediatly or down the road.

  36. Richard says:

    Please, he did it because he doesn’t want to move his family. For that reason alone: good for him. He put his family above his job.

    But let’s be honest: He was put in a catch-22. He could have left and watch as Leafs fan mangle him for abandoning (spelling?) them for a front-runner after claiming loyalty for years or alternatively staying put and being torn apart for being selfish and not helping the team.

    As a Habs fan, I have always had a certain respect for Sundin despite his association with a despicable organization. Now I have nothing for pity for Sundin, as I laugh at the thought of the Leafs 5 year plan for recovery suddenly being thrust into a 7-10 year plan at best.

    Last year’s Montreal/Toronto game to end the season was exciting, emotional, and disappointing. This year’s, and for many years to come, it will simply be irrelevant.

  37. ddawwidd says:

    Habs fans would rip Koivu as well. I am really sorry, I love Canadiens fans, but being a guy “from the outside” I’m often stunned by the lack of support shown by the fans when things don’t go well.

    As I’ve written before, Sundin is a class act. If some GM was stupid enough to put half of his team on NTC, that’s his problem. Or maybe the guy who hired the GM should be worried? What’s the point of having a NTC when every time you use it you get publicly executed? That’s as funny as ripping a player into pieces because he is taking the salary assured by his contract.

    On the other hand – don’t you think there is something special about Swedish players? In the positive sense, I mean. One does not believe in rental players, so he stays on a sinking ship, knowing that half of the league would take him. The other was talking about going back home to his family for half of his career (Lidstrom – thank heavens he changed his mind). And the another actually did come back home because he missed his friends (Jorgen Jonsson, anyone remembers? If I’m not wrong, he played more games in Swedish national team than anyone else). Such guys make me believe this is still sports, not stock market, after all.

    Geez, this one was long. Sorry everyone.

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