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How Swede it is

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
How would you like another Swede on your team?


That’s the question Mats Sundin jokingly posed to Vancouver General Manager Mike Gillis when calling to inform him that he had decided to join the Canucks.

It’s unclear how Gillis responded, but you can bet it was with a lot of enthusiasm.

Sundin, Vancouver’s new power forward, spoke to the media for the first time on Friday via a conference call from his home in Sweden. His day was just winding down thanks to the nine-hour time difference between the west coast and Stockholm, yet Sundin was hardly droopy in expressing how exhilarated he is to be a member of the Canucks.

“The first option has been Vancouver since we started to look at the different teams and I’m very thankful for the belief that the Vancouver organization has in me as a hockey player and wanting to add me to their roster,” said Sundin.

Since free-agency began way back on July 1, rumours regarding where Sundin would play this season have swirled like an uncontrollable tornado, gaining momentum and strength with each passing day. That twister hit F5 status on Tuesday when Gillis announced that a verdict was coming Thursday, one way or another.

Unlike other decision deadlines that came and went, Sundin stuck to his one just in time to save Vancouver from being blown away, and all it took was some convincing from fellow Swede Mattias Ohlund.

THE CALL

The veteran blueliner called up Sundin Thursday morning to confirm that his addition would be a positive one to the team and that his presence wouldn’t act as a bull in the team’s chemistry china shop.

“I just wanted to get a feel on how the team felt getting another player mid-season and that they actually want me to come in and play for them,” Sundin said.

“Any time there’s changes mid-season and things going on, those things affect what’s going on in the dressing room, so I just wanted to get a feel on how the guys felt about it and it was very encouraging.”

“He had a few questions just about our team,” explained Ohlund, “and I told him it’s a great place to play. We’ve got a young team with a lot of potential and obviously everybody knows that he would be a good fit on our team and we’re happy that he’s here.”

In choosing the Canucks, Sundin joins his third Canadian team in what will now be his 18th season in the league.

Originally drafted by the Quebec Nordiques first overall in 1989 (the same season Vancouver got a steal of a deal and selected Pavel Bure in the sixth round, 113th overall), Sundin played four years pour les Nordiques before a blockbuster trade on June 28, 1994, sent him to the centre of the universe.

Toronto acquired Sundin, Todd Warrnier, Garth Butcher and a first round pick from Quebec for Wendel Clark, Landon Wilson, Sylvain Lefebvre and a first rounder.

This epic deal thrust Sundin into the spotlight in the toughest hockey market in North America, but that didn’t break the then 23-year-old, it molded him into the character player he is today.

HOCKEY HOTBED

One of the final pieces in choosing the Canucks over other suitors, Sundin admitted, was that Vancouver is a hockey hotbed and he simply can’t get enough of the enthusiasm for the game that his adopted country has.

“It was definitely a factor. I’ve spent my whole NHL career in Canada, Toronto has been my home for over 13 years. I do enjoy living in Canada and knowing that Vancouver has a great hockey franchise and great hockey fans, I think that’s an environment that I’ve liked being in my career where people care about their hockey team and they get involved.”

During the conference call Sundin was questioned about whether or not he’ll feel like a rent-a-player in Vancouver’s dressing room and he responded by candidly saying that blending in with the team is going to be a challenge at first.

Kyle Wellwood and other Canucks don’t see it that way.

“I think any hockey player coming in would be able to fit in and he’s just going to make things a lot better.”

Wellwood, a Maple Leafs castoff, played with Sundin in Toronto for the better part of three seasons. The pair came together for goals on a few occasions and everything about Sundin still amazes Wellwood.

“Mats, he’s so incredible, he’s just like Luongo where it seems like there’s some games where he takes it over and he has these great stretches of phenomenal games.”

RAISED EXPECTATIONS?

Luongo has had a few of those stretches already this season and when he returns from injury it doesn’t take a crystal ball to know that he’ll produce a few more.

Adding Sundin to a group that is already sitting in top spot in the Northwest Division doesn’t change anything, according to Luongo, except that with the brute Swede in town, Mike Brown is no longer #13.

“It doesn’t really raise expectations," said Luongo. "We've had high expectations in this locker room since the beginning of the season, so I don’t think that really changes for us as a group.

"We know that we’re capable of beating anyone and playing well and our first goal is to make the playoffs and our second goal is to win the cup so that doesn’t really change.”

The end goal doesn’t change, but the chances of accomplishing it certainly improve.

HOCKEY IDOL

For Daniel and Henrik Sedin, the most popular twins to ever come out of Sweden, playing alongside one of their childhood idols is going to be a surreal experience.

“He’s a guy that we looked up to when we played in Sweden and growing up, the same way we looked up to Markus,” said Henrik. “So it’s going to be really fun for us to watch him. We know he’s really professional and he works hard, it’s a good chance for a lot of young guys to watch him closely.”

It may take a game or two for the trio to get acquainted, should they skate on the same line while Alain Vigneault does some juggling early on, yet before this season is over these three will undoubtedly produce a heap of memorable goals and cause some embarrassing commentator gaffs.

ONE OF FOUR

On Wednesday the Canucks honored Trevor Linden, one of the all time greatest players to ever play for Vancouver, by lifting his jersey to the rafters. Linden’s character and leadership were second to none during his playing days and in coach Vigneault’s mind, Sundin was cut from the same cloth.

“In the past five to ten years when I’ve watched certain players handle themselves whether it be media wise or on the ice, four guys have always stood out in my mind,” said Vigneault. “Trevor was one, Jarome was another one, Joe Sakic – every time I saw him and the way he presented himself publically and the way he handled himself on the ice – and Mats.

“Those four guys have always stood out in my mind, in good times and bad times, handling themselves in a great way. We’ve got Mats coming in here who’s used to a Canadian environment, so it should be a lot of fun.”

How would we like another Swede on our team?

We’d love one. Thanks for asking.




Official press release
Canucks report
It's official
The little things...



1 - First overall pick of the Quebec Nordiques in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft

17 - Seasons in the NHL split between Quebec and Toronto

  555 - Career goals (22nd all-time)

766 - Career assists (34th all-time)

1321 - Career points (30th all-time)





 Sundin conference call





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Exclusive Gillis interview
Gillis press conference
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