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Only fools rush in

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
It felt like it took years for Mats Sundin to make a decision on his playing future this season. Now that he’s a member of the Vancouver Canucks, the waiting game has yet to end.

The focus has shifted from will he play for the Canucks to when he’ll suit up with the team.

Although those in attendance at Sundin’s Tuesday afternoon press conference did their best to get it out of him, the answer just wasn’t there.

There is still no advent calendar for Sundin’s debut in Vancouver. If there was, you can bet the Canucks would be shoveling down those chocolates like protestors fresh off a hunger strike.

“The thing missing for me is the skating and up-tempo practice with the National Hockey League practices and games,” said Sundin, who was on the ice for the first time with his new team during their morning game-day skate on Tuesday.

“Saying that, I’m not sure [when I’ll play], it’s going to be a decision for the coaches to see when I’m at that point with the intensity and everything that it takes. I haven’t talked about any date with the coaches, but I’m sure that will develop as we go on in practice.”

Practice and conditioning is what Sundin said he needs and he’ll get plenty of both in the next few days. He likely will not join the team on their mini two game road trip, which stops in Nashville and Atlanta on Thursday and Friday; instead he’ll get his body re-accustomed to the strains that come with playing at the highest level of hockey around.

The waiting game isn’t one anyone likes to play, especially when it involves a cog that could propel the Canucks into the upper elite of the Western Conference’s playoff bound teams, luckily he’s not starting from scratch.

Sundin graded himself as being in “going into training camp kind of shape,” and coming from a 17-year NHL veteran who understands how to prepare for a season, that means quite a bit.

“The first week of training camp is always really hard until you get to the point where you are physically on the ice and to do the things you have to do out there to be competitive.

“I think I want to make sure that I’m going to be able to do what I need to do out there to play my game and more than anything be able to help the team, so we’ll have to see when that point is.”

The upside of Sundin taking his time coming back is that he's ensuring he’s able to perform for the remainder of the season.

As it was brought up during the press conference, often players who come back from having missed lengthy periods of time suffer early setbacks, especially groin injuries.

There will be none of that for Maximus Mats; he’s listening to his body and living by the motto ‘only fools rush in.’

“I think that’s one of the reasons why when I talk about that I’m in good shape and I’m not going into training camp, but you need those weeks to get your groin and that part of your body ready for the game tempo type of situations and turning and twisting that is in the National Hockey League.

“That’s one of the reasons why we’re going to need some days to get the groin and all that ready to go; all of that feels good right now.”

Physically Sundin needs more time before jumping into the line-up, but mentally he’s already there.

Despite his team having missed the playoffs the last three seasons and contemplating retirement during the off-season, Sundin is far from lacking in passion for the game he’s adored since he was five-years-old.

“It’s probably been better or as good as it’s ever been in the last few years. That’s why I think last year was frustrating, I felt it was a lot of fun to play hockey at the same time we struggled and so it was a very emotional season.

"But when I look back at it I really enjoyed playing and I felt that I was strong on the ice and playing good so hopefully I can pick up where I left off.”

Sundin had 17 points (8-9-17) in his final 12 games last season so picking up right where he left off sounds like a prime yet whimsical idea. Patience landed Sundin and it’s going to take a little more before he’s helping the team win games.

Put your red marker away because there’s no concrete Sundin debut date to circle on the calendar, but it’s coming.

Then we can kiss the Sundin waiting game goodbye forever.

Official press release
Canucks report
It's official
The little things...
One man can make a difference
How Swede it is

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 meets the media
Alain Vigneault presser
Exclusive Gillis interview
Gillis press conference

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