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Sundin Teleconference Transcript

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

Moderator: Good morning to everyone in North America and good afternoon to everyone joining us from overseas. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department and I'd like to welcome you to today's call.
Today's call is a sure sign the summer is almost over and an indication that NHL training camps are about to open. Our guest today is Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin. Thanks to Mats for joining us from Sweden.

Normally by this time next week, Mats would be in Toronto preparing for medicals and on-ice workouts, but next Thursday he will be meeting his teammates in Stockholm as the Leafs will travel to Sweden for NHL challenge 2003. Following five days of training in Stockholm the team will travel to Helsinki Helsinki, where they will meet Jokerit of the Finnish League on September 16. Back in Stockholm, Mats will face his former club Djurgarden on September 18 followed by a meeting with the 2001 Swedish league champion Farjestad September 19.

Mats is entering his 14th NHL season, tenth as a Maple Leaf and 7th as Team Captain. He is the leading Swedish-born scorer in NHL history with 1,014 points on 434 goals and 580 assists, and his next goal will be his 300th as a Maple Leaf, making him the fourth player in team history to reach the 300-goal mark.

Thanks to Mats for taking the time to join us today.

Mats is excited to play host in his homeland.
Gett Images

Question: What part of playing in your home country with the Leafs are you most excited about?

SUNDIN: Well, I don't know, it's different. I mean, I've never been in Sweden in my hometown with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I'm just excited about having the team over, I guess. I know there's a lot of Leafs fans in Sweden and in Europe, so this is a great chance for European audience to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think that's the most -- I think that's the most fun thing about this whole thing.

Question: Are there certain parts of the Swedish culture or Stockholm that you're excited to show your Leafs teammates?

SUNDIN:Well, you know what, obviously we are going to focus on practicing and preparing for the season as we start, just the way we would had we been somewhere around Toronto. So it's going to be a lot of working out and practicing and I'm sure we're going to have some chances at night to have some dinners and take a look around Stockholm. But I'm sure that most of the focus is going to be on practicing and getting ready.

Question: What are your thoughts about the Leafs' off-season moves?

SUNDIN: Well, I was excited about the moves the Leafs made at the end of last year. I thought we not only tried to improve the team before last year's playoffs, but also for some season coming up even more so.
Obviously with Marchment and with a couple of the other signings, like Bryan McCabe , I'm excited. I thought we had a good team going into last year's playoffs and I don't think that has changed. Hopefully we can make sure we have everybody healthy.

Question A lot has been said about Pat Quinn's changing role with the team. Does the fact that he will be concentrating on coaching full-time matter at all, do you think?

SUNDIN: I'm not sure. I think he's the person who has to answer that. I mean, I don't know if -- I'm not too familiar with the GM, having both jobs, I don't know. But I think it might be possible that he can focus just on coaching. At the end, I hope it's going to turn out good for us.

Question Can you realistically assess the Leafs chances of getting to the Stanley Cup Finals? Your team has been good for a long time. I think people underestimate the fact that you've won playoff rounds in each of the last five years until last year and been near 100 points, so you have sort of always been on the cusp of contention, but do you think with the core that you have now, that there is a possibility of taking that team over the top?

SUNDIN: I do think so. I've gone into the last -- I'll say the last five seasons with a great feeling knowing that we can beat any team in the league. You know, obviously you are asking a great question, what is that little difference that's going to take us to the next level. I think we have the players and the personnel to do it. You look at teams like Anaheim, Carolina that have gone further than we did within the last couple of years and ended up just making the playoffs and then having great runs.
So we have to somehow make sure that we start this training camp with a better start than we had last year, and then build on that in the regular season. So when we hit the playoffs, we have to be absolutely as good as we can be and hopefully have all of the bodies healthy so we can have a better run and make that next -- I mean, I haven't been past the semifinal, the Conference Finals, and that goes for the team, in a long time. I don't think there's a person out there; I think it's more a mental thing that we can be a stronger group when we get into the playoffs this year than we have in the past year.

Mats is excited to play host in his homeland.
Gett Images

Question: I guess the first thing is, can you maybe talk about maybe the excitement that's building within the community over there about the Leafs coming and the chance to see, for people to see yourself and Mikael Renberg and guys like that?

SUNDIN: People are excited. I know the game against Djurgarden, mine and Mikael's former team, was sold out in a couple of hours, I know that.
The Elite League where these teams are playing over here starts the week after, so people are excited. Also, I think people are very excited to see the North American players as much as watching us play because they see us back and forth at regular times, but to watch Tie Domi and some of the other guys, McCabe, Roberts, Mogilny, Belfour, a lot of these players they don't get to see live, I think they are as excited to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs, a National Hockey League team come and compete against a Swedish team.
I think it's going to be a great thing for hockey in Sweden because it hasn't really been a lot of excitement about Swedish hockey of late. So hopefully this is going to be a great boost for hockey in Sweden.

Question: What's it been like for you personally, for your parents and family members, Minor League coaches, is your phone ringing off the hook now?

SUNDIN: Well, I've got a lot of tickets for sure for the two games that are going to be in Stockholm. I'm excited. I think I'm very proud to get a chance to show my friends and family the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the greatest hockey clubs in history, to come home to Stockholm is a great thing for myself. I know the people of Sweden are excited, the hockey fans and everything. I think it's going to be a great week. I think we just have to make sure that this is a preparation for us for the important part, the start of the season, and it's not a vacation trip. So I think with that many mind, I think hopefully we are going to have a good build-up here for the start of the season for us.

Question: Are you expecting a number of moves between now and the start of the season to get this club in some kind of shape to avert another disaster?

SUNDIN: Another disaster -- I'm not sure. I think we're -- I'm not familiar with the strategy of our new general manager and I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet. But I know that the team that finished last year is a pretty good hockey team, even though we lost out in the first round. I think we showed, except for the first month of last season, we showed that we were a team that pretty much beat all the top teams throughout the season, and I'm not worried about the start of the season this year, either. I think we are going to be one of the top teams in the League, but, you know, it's always the same question: What parts are we missing to make that last run and make that Stanley Cup finals? It's really tough to say. You know, I think I'm not the guy to answer whether or not something more is going to happen. You're going to have to ask some of the other guys here.

Question: When you first came to North America, what was your first impression and what do you think the first impressions of the Leafs will be when they arrive in Scandinavia?

SUNDIN: Of the Leaf players, you mean?

Question: When you first came over to North America, what were your first impressions and when do you think the Leaf players will think when they go over there for the first time?

SUNDIN: I hope they are going to like it. My first impressions coming to North America was, I think, a little bit different. I went over there to compete in the best hockey league in the world. I just hope that when our team is coming here that we are going to make it a good week to prepare for the season, and we are going to have good practice sessions to skate and have good preparations for the start of the year. As I said, and then I can show them around a little bit and see Scandinavian life. But I think they are going to find it very familiar to Canada and Toronto. It is not going to be a whole big of a change in terms of the culture and food and that stuff. I think they are going to be pretty comfortable with that.

Question: How are you going to explain Tie Domi to the people over there?

SUNDIN: You know, it's kind of funny, but I'm sure he's going to be very popular hockey player. I don't think there's any player over here that has the kind of a role that he has on the hockey team. I'm sure they are going to be excited to watch him play.

Question: I wanted to ask you about your new venture into horse racing. Have you always been a fan?

SUNDIN: Well, it started actually, I watched the trotters which is really big in Europe, for a long time and five years ago, a friend of mine who was a coach this year with the Swede everybody national team, Hardy Nilsson . I asked him if there's a really good chance to be to be a part of a good horse, let me know. And five years went by and this year he asked me, he said there's a possibility to get involved with a horse that's from Toronto and is a really competitive four-year-old. I said, what the heck. I'm part of this horse. And then two days after I became involved, he won a big race in New York City. Unfortunately, it didn't do as well in Toronto here last weekend, but it's certainly exciting.
It's more of -- it's obviously just a hobby and to be part of a horse, it's fun to watch a race. So that's kind of how it came about.
I think the qualification run is coming up here, so hopefully he'll do better and hopefully he'll draw a better track. I think he was 7th position at the start of last two, so hopefully he can get a little better position going into this race.

Question I was just told a few moments ago Jonas Hoglund signed with Florida as a free agent. He has a bit of a bad rap, what is your reaction?

SUNDIN: You know what, I actually just talked to Jonas myself. I mean, I thought he did -- with the circumstances and everything, I think he scored a lot of goals for the Maple Leafs and did really well. At parts he played a lot and at parts he didn't play so much. Also, people were critical -- sometimes pretty good and a lot of times it was negative. He always kept his head up and tried to do the best he could, and that's all you could ask for someone.
I wish him good luck and I'm happy that he gets another chance to play in the National Hockey League and hopefully he'll do well with Florida.

Question: I know you were mentioning about the team, and it's hard to say how it's going to be with the players that are going to be added, but there have been some mixed messages for everybody back here. The deadlines, they traded, and seemed to be going forward, suddenly they are talking about a youth movement which didn't make a lot of sense since they traded the first round pick, is that confusing for players, as well?

SUNDIN:I think the most -- the thing I've been kind of looking for is what's been going on with the general manager and the coaching thing there. I'm glad that that's solved.
We are in Toronto and our -- as a player, I know that I'm going into this year, I want to win the Stanley Cup. I mean, I don't really care. If we are going to bring in some older guys they had better be good. And if we have some younger guys we want them to be good, too, and become even better.
I think it's a time and it's a franchise, it's a town where I don't think we can really sit back and rebuild. We've got to go for it this year again, just the way we have been trying the last few years and keep having good runs in the playoffs and hopefully get some more experience.
You know, you keep saying, how did Carolina get to the finals, and the same with Anaheim the last year; and they just made it into the playoffs. There's got to be -- there's no doubt that we have the personnel and the qualities to get to the finals, and we've seen -- we've played New Jersey for many years. They have been a battalion of ours and a great team to play against, but they somehow found a way at the end to have that little extra. We've got to find that. Whether we go with younger or older guys, I know that -- there's no doubt we are not going to -- we are going to go into this year trying to win the Stanley Cup. There's no other way.

Mats is interested to see the Swedish fans' reactions to Tie Domi's brand of hockey.
Graig Abel Photography

Question: Just wanted to ask you about the value of being overseas for ten days at the start of training camp. You've already had a few of the questions about April and May and maybe even June asked of you, is it really a lot different than getting away to a place like Hamilton? Hamilton you could say was a training camp away from home last year, but we know it was in the backyard really.

SUNDIN:You know what, I don't think it's a whole lot of -- it's not a bigger thing than the flight, I think. We are going to -- who knows if it's better or not. But I know that we are going to have good practice time and we are going to be on a bigger ice surface for a while. We are going to play three really, really good hockey teams that are going to skate. So I'm not worried that we are not going to be practicing and playing against quality opponents. I'm more worried, they have been on the ice for a month and we have only been skating for five days, so see if we can keep up with them.
So other than the time change and the flight, I don't see a whole lot of other problems. I think it's going to be good. You know, we are going to have a chance to have maybe a smaller group of guys together earlier. I think that might be good. Right off the top, start the folks on building a good team and a good team spirit and hopefully that can get us going and have a better start of the season than we did last year.

Question Already the best European players in the NHL now, is there any at all resentment towards the elite players from a country that are seen as leaving that country, instead of increasing the quality of the Swedish Elite League or the Finnish Elite League, the fact that you go to another part of the world to play? They understand the money and the exposure, but are you completely missed by your fans and respected by your fan core?

SUNDIN: I think so. I hope so. I don't think that's a problem there. I think people realize that if you're a player in any kind of sport, you want to go and compete against the best in the world and that's what guys are doing.
Saying that, I'm not saying that -- the guys that are still here are really good hockey players. And on the big ice surface, I want to make sure when we get here we have good some practicing. We are going to face three teams that are really excited to play against a National Hockey League team. And they are going to be gearing up, their season starts in about a week after that, so they are going to be a fired up team. So we are going to have our hands full. I'm just concerned, to make sure that we have some good games over here.

Question At the end of last season you had to go through some nasty dental surgery, you've had some bad facial injuries, I wonder if you could just tell us, one, if you sorted all of that out and your health status, and if it's made you re-think the extra protection?

SUNDIN: I'm going to wear a mouth guard for sure this year. I haven't used that. I do have some work left when I get back to Toronto, but most of the dental work for now until my career is over is done. I have no problem chewing or anything like that. I have better teeth. I don't know how that's going to help me with all of that stuff, that's no problem but I still have some smaller things to fix when I get back to Toronto. Then when my career is over, I'm going to have do it a little bit more -- do a better job with it. Other than that, I feel great. I'm looking forward to the start of the year.

Question: For the past year or so you've heard many players, particularly Forsberg and Naslund say they would like to finish their careers in Sweden, do you have any plans like that and if so, when do you think that might happen?

SUNDIN:I haven't really thought about that at all. I think I would love to finish my hockey career, I hope in North America. When I go from season to season now, I'm just trying to concentrate on trying to be as good as I can be and trying to make our team as good as we can be to try to win a championship in Toronto. That's all I'm worried about and hopefully I'll just stay healthy and I won't have any problems like that. Hopefully I can stay and play in North America. I haven't thought about that at all.

Question: In previous training camps leading up to the season you've tried things such as different weight training, have you tried anything new for in coming season?

SUNDIN:A little bit. I've done a little more running and I know with my own game, I want to try to be a little more explosive, so I've done a little more sprints and a little more work. I'm trying to be a little more explosive and more explosive strength instead of maybe endurance. So you change a little bit, not a whole lot.
But I've always felt good at the start of the season. So for me, I just want to make sure that I can maintain my condition as the season goes on. That's kinds of the toughest part, you want to make sure that your condition doesn't dip as the season goes on. I've always felt good early on in the season and that's going to be another test for me, just to make sure that as the season goes on this year. I've been working with Matt Nichols, which has been great. He did a great job at the end of last year, just to make sure that I myself don't lose that condition as the season goes on.

Question: The past couple of seasons, team such as the Leafs and Stars the Red Wings and a few others have been able to add to their rosters through free agency and acquiring some contracts near the trade deadline. Do you think that after the season with the new C.B.A. coming up that that will be the case any more, or do you think there will be big changes to that kind of thinking?

SUNDIN: That's a good question. Who knows what's going to happen with the new C.B.A. I think teams that you named, they want to make a good run every year. If there's quality players out there at the deadline, I think you're going to keep seeing players trying to improve their hockey teams that they feel they need it, or if they have injuries or any other problems. I think you'll keep seeing that.
Some teams have done it really successfully and it has not worked for some teams. You know, as the deadline gets closer, there are some teams that are always looking to boost their roster for sure.

Question: Obviously with 2004 coming, there's a lot of indecision, people don't know what's going to happen. The last time there was a work stoppage, several players, most notably Doug Gilmore. Went to Europe to play. Would you ever consider if it looks like it's going to be a long work stoppage playing in Sweden, if nothing is going on in North America, even if it's just for part of a season?

SUNDIN: I hope we don't have to see that. I hope -- everyone is talking about the work stoppage, but I really hope this is going to be solved before that. We are still about a year away. I really hope that everything is going to be solved by then and that we are not going to have to worry about going and playing somewhere else because that's not really -- that's not a good thing. I really hope it's going to be solved by then, and if not, you know, we'll see what happens. I haven't thought about that.

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