TORONTO — Mats Sundin idolized Borje Salming growing up. Soon he will be bronzed next to his hero on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Legends Row.
Sundin, the franchise leader with 420 goals and 987 points, will be the latest Leafs star to be immortalized as part of the monument outside Air Canada Centre when his statue is unveiled during the team’s fan fest Saturday.
“Borje Salming and Mats Naslund at the time were my idols growing up,” Sundin said Thursday night after a season-ticket-holder event at Air Canada Centre. “For me to be a part of Legends Row together with Borje, it’s obviously tough to take in, as well. But it’s a great honour.”
The Sundin and Salming statues join those of Ted Kennedy, Darryl Sittler and Johnny Bower, with likenesses of Syl Apps and George Armstrong coming in November.
Sundin spent 13 seasons in Toronto, including 11 as captain, and was the face of the franchise. In 2012 he made the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, becoming the second Swede inducted after Salming.
He’s the most modern-day Leafs player to join Legends Row. Sundin said he was in shock when team president Brendan Shanahan told him he was getting a statue earlier this year at a downtown Toronto hotel.
“He had mentioned that he had hoped to be a part of it but was pleased that it happened so soon and especially pleased that he was going in the same time as Borje,” Shanahan said.
Sundin played 981 regular-season games with the Leafs and is second in franchise history with 567 assists. He led the team to two Eastern Conference final appearances and had 70 points in 77 playoff games.
The 44-year-old got a rousing standing ovation from about 3,000 season-ticket holders who attended a question-and-answer session with Shanahan, general manager Lou Lamoriello and coach Mike Babcock. He doesn’t know what the statue will look like but just hopes he’s wearing a modern CCM helmet and not his old-school JOFA lid.
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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press