Even as he continues his hockey hiatus in Sweden, Mats Sundin is keeping an eye on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The longtime Leafs captain remains undecided about his own future but has been following his former team from afar. He thinks everything will be just fine for the blue and white this season.
``I saw they won their first exhibition game so that was great,'' Sundin told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. ``I think Leaf fans are going to be surprised about some of the younger players that are coming through the Leafs system. I saw some of them at the end of last year.
``I think the Leafs are going to have a good year. They should be fun to watch with a lot of new faces and some excitement around the team. I'm going to follow them here as the pre-season goes on.''
Training camps are now open around the NHL and the regular season will get underway in less than two weeks. Even still, Sundin feels no added pressure to decide whether he wants to play again or not.
He's still struggling with the same internal question he's been trying to answer all summer _ am I up for it?
``There's always going to be a hockey itch with me,'' said Sundin. ``I love the game of hockey. It's been the biggest part of my life my whole life.
``The question that I don't really have the answer for anyone at this point is whether or not I'm ready to play at the highest level and compete at the National Hockey League level. ... It hasn't changed with training camps starting and all that.''
In many ways, the rebuilding Maple Leafs seem to have embraced life without Mats, although interim GM Cliff Fletcher has said several times that he'd love to have No. 13 back. There has been a noticeably relaxed feel around the team during its first training camp without Sundin in 15 years.
No matter what Sundin decides about his playing career _ and perhaps even if he doesn't make a firm decision _ the 37-year-old won't remain in Sweden indefinitely.
``I am going to go back to Toronto at some point,'' he said. ``I have my house there. I obviously consider Toronto as my home still.''
Sundin was in the city earlier this month for a charity hockey game. He looked fit and tanned during that visit while indicating that he spent far less time worrying about his future over the summer than many others around the hockey world.
The veteran centre is still attractive to NHL teams because he's coming off a solid season _ with 32 goals and 78 points _ and is often thought of as one of the game's better leaders. The Montreal Canadiens, one of Sundin's primary suitors, dropped out of the running by acquiring Robert Lang earlier this month but other options remain if he wants to play.
One thing Sundin didn't mind missing out on at training camp was the fitness testing NHL players are put through, although he quickly added that those exercises are nowhere near as stressful as they once were.
``Actually at the point of where I'm at with my career they don't put too much (emphasis on that),'' he said. ``They obviously care that you come in shape but it's not to the point where you worry about (it) the way you did when you were a kid coming into training camp.''
With the added free time, he's enjoyed spending more time with his fiancee Josephine and relaxing.
It's also provided him the opportunity to focus on some new hobbies. Sundin recently signed an endorsement deal with PokerStars.com and competed at a professional event in Barcelona.
Canadian player Daniel Negreanu was among those who gave him some tips ahead of time but that didn't take away the nerves once the tournament got going.
``It was pretty intimidating,'' said Sundin. ``I don't know what to compare it with, but obviously knowing that my experiences are limited going up against guys that are doing nothing else but playing (was tough).
``It was a learning experience. It was certainly something I enjoyed and I did enjoy it to the point where I want to learn more and play more.''
Any money he earns at the table and part of his overall endorsement fee will be donated to charity.
Sundin is expected to enter two or three other professional events in the future but nothing has been confirmed. Even the people at PokerStars are waiting for a decision on his hockey career first. Got an Opinion? Be Heard in LeafSpace.com!