An Open Letter to Jonas Gustavsson
from Mike Ulmer, head keyboard wizard, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
May I call you Gus?
Great. Gus, busy as you are with the World Hockey Championships, you probably haven’t had much time to consider your many offers of employment.
Now that Sweden has been eliminated, it's time to look towards North America.
From what I understand, the Leafs have wooed you most fervently followed by, if you believe the papers, Dallas and a bunch of others.
I also understand this isn’t a bidding war. As a 24-year-old NHL rookie, you will get the rookie scale wherever you play.
Just for your education, I have put together 10 reasons why Toronto would be your best choice and while I am unquestionably biased I am also undeniably right.
1. Toronto is the most Swedish-friendly city in the NHL. From Borje Salming and Inge Hammarstrom to the Big Swede, Mats Sundin, we have welcomed your countrymen, particularly the ones who weren’t lousy.
2. Viktor Stalberg adds to a Swedish contingent that already includes Jonas Frogren and Anton Stralman. You would be the third Swede with only two Finns, Nik Hagman and Vesa Toskala. Yes, we know how the Swedes feel about the Finns (shortest book in history: Finnish War Heroes). That’s why you have my pledge, and all that goes with it, that the Leafs will always have more Swedes than Finns.
3. The Leafs goalie coach Corey Hirsch is famous as the netminder Peter Forsberg beat in a shootout to win gold at the 1994 Olympics. You kind of owe the guy.
4. Toronto is one of the most enlightened cities on earth. If Dallas is still in the running, I’m betting you haven’t been there.
5. Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk, Bernie Parent, Johnny Bower, Curtis Joseph, Ed Belfour. If it’s good enough for them…
6. An Ikea right off the 401. Can’t miss it.
7. There are 5,000 Swedes in Toronto (again, think of Dallas) and the main Toronto reference library on Yonge Street is drunk with Swedish reading material. I’m not making that up, it’s on the Internet and everything.
8. No sissy winters. Snow, sleet and unrelenting darkness pretty well from November to April. You’ll love it.
9. Direct flights for girlfriends, parents and friends from Stockholm. Try getting that in Ottawa, Nashville or Calgary.
10. In the 1972 Summit Series, Frank Mahovlich is said to have invited Soviet star Valery Kharlamov to come home. “Come to Canada and I’ll make you a millionaire,” said the Big M. “Come to Russia,” said Kharlamov, and I will make you a king.”
That’s what playing for Toronto is about. You are paid as a millionaire but treated like a king. You will never have any trouble remembering what you said or wore the day before. Just check the paper. Being a Leaf means having home games in other people’s rinks. It takes a special man to play here and Gus, I think you’ve got the right stuff.