It’s a great, big wide world of shinny out there with scores of storylines and intrigue around the NHL.
The highlight on Saturday should be Hockey Day in Canada, the CBC-initiated love-in from sea-to-shining-sea in that communities across the Great White North will embrace and celebrate our shared passion.
Unfortunately, in Canada’s biggest community, that group hug will be an afterthought as fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs will be expending all their energy on the return of Mats Sundin.
Fans, media members and bloggers have been buzzing around this story for days, ruminating on whether the super-skilled Swede will be cheered or jeered in his homecoming, the place where he served as benign ruler for many of his 13 years with the organization.
Clearly, there is a lot of spirit simmering in this saga and, as a mostly objective observer, I can see both sides.
If you feel Sundin misled and betrayed with his philosophical shift on not wanting to parachute into a team mid-way through a season, and the hurt hasn’t subsided, you’re likely going to want to boo him. After all, had he and the four other Leafs who refused to waive their no trade clauses relented, your team would be significantly further along the rebuilding track.
If, on the other hand, you’re appreciative of the effort, skill and class he displayed during his tenure in the center of the hockey universe – no Cups, but first all-time in Leafs goals and points – you’re probably going to want to applaud the man.
There is a third option. Do nothing.
If you really want to show the former captain you’ve moved on, treat him as you would any other visiting player, like a Modin or a Sedin, not a Sundin. The hardest part of love is letting go. Once you’ve done that, you’re free of crappy feelings.
Behave as you would if you were jilted by a lover. If you harbour resentment, you’re stuck – and the jiltee probably gets a buzz from your reaction. If you fawn over someone who dumped you, it’s honorable I suppose, but also a tad uncomfortable.
The best message to send is one of polite respect, focusing on your new love interest and showing the old one bygones are bygones. Sundin had no place on this rebuilding Leafs squad anyhow and his reasons for changing his mind are his reasons. You, as a fan, have no control over that.
So I suggest when day breaks on Saturday, Leaf fans embrace Hockey Day in Canada for the joys it brings beyond their city’s limits, settle in for a great triple-header of games and, if you’re at the Air Canada Centre, neither cheer nor jeer your former captain.
Relative silence would send a message, loud and clear.
Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every Friday.
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