Sundin spanned the gap between goodness and greatness.

Mats Sundin acknowledges the crowd at a Leafs home game.

Up close or in private the chasm between the good and the great is not a theory.

It is a daily fact and it thrived in Toronto over 13 seasons.

Mats Sundin’s greatness, evident to all, was felt most keenly up close. His presence, titanic to those closest to him, sometimes dissipated by the time it reached the fan.

The less you know of Mats Sundin, the more you may be prone to doubt him and the underlying arguments against his standing as ...

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Jeff Carter, Scott Gomez. Two contracts, one catastrophe.

What happens when you tell a smart man that Jeff Carter has the worst contract in the NHL.

A word, if I might, about bad contracts.

First, let’s start with the mother of them all.

http://didgomezscore.com/

The Scott Gomez contract isn’t a catastrophic error by Montreal Canadiens’ GM Pierre Gauthier just because Gomez hasn’t scored in 362 days, which, you know is getting pretty close to a year.

The Gomez contract is financial strychnine because Scott Gomez will make $7.3 million when he is 33 and 34 years old.

Gomez is going to retire after ...

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Colts defeat Delta Force, make Leafs watch.

Mike Cornelissen and Edgar Grisnic.

Graham MacDonald lugged his hockey bag into Dressing Room 2 of the Canlan Ice Sports rink at York University.

Before him sat a training table with tape, water, spots drinks and coolers. Hanging in a stall was a white Maple Leafs jersey bearing his name and number.

“Finally made it,” he grinned.

True enough. For one night MacDonald, a Scarborough sales rep whose company makes air filters and his hockey buddies on the Colts, Adrian ‘Rat’ Ruegsesser and Harry Ojanen – who bears some a passing resemblance to ...

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Why more than ever the Leafs need to listen to my Uncle Leonard

My Uncle Leonard would be very, very unhappy.

My Uncle Leonard was a tough guy. So was his son, Randy.

Randy got in a bar fight over money. He had the guy pinned against the wall. When the guy said he would pay, Randy let him down. The guy took a swing at Randy and while he did not connect, Randy found himsel on the floor looking up.

Standing over him was my Uncle Leonard. “Get in the truck,” he said.

Randy immediately forgot about the guy he was fighting. The two drove ...

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An extension for Liles: what does it all mean?

I know what you’re thinking.

The Leafs have signed defenceman John-Michael Liles to a reported four-year contract extension that will pay him $3.85 million per year.  In doing so, the team will lock Liles up until he is 35.

Nice move. Liles has been instrumental in lifting the Leafs power play from the never regions of the league stats to its current fifth overall standing.

Lost to concussion for over a month, Liles should be back soon. His four goals and 17 assists this season pro rate into a 10 goal, 42-point season ...

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Marlies take Bulldogs outside

It is part of our national character that about the time we are prodded into going outside in winter we begin heckling those who remain indoors.

And so the Toronto Marlies, Hamilton Bulldogs and 20,655 people who visited Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, many for the first time, have a message.

Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah.

The AHL’s Outdoor Classic was just that; an event positioned somewhere between novelty act and intense Canadiana. That the Marlies beat the Bulldogs 7-2 was nice for the visitors but really, you just had to be there.

“That was awesome,” said Marlie ...

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King’s story is a Canadian fable.

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Marlies Jerry D'Amigo and Korbinian Holzer clown around at Ivor Wynne Stadium. The Marlies and Hamilton Bulldogs meet Saturday at 1 p.m. in the AHL Outdoor Classic.

You had to take a physical when you immigrated to Canada in the mid 1960s and so it was that only hours after setting foot here Helena King was telling her husband Sam she was pregnant.

Helena was shocked. Sam was too.  The two had just arrived, two children in tow, from Edinburgh. Sam has said more once that had they known another child ...

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Looking At The Alumni Rosters

One-time Maple Leafs greats Wendel Clark, Curtis Joseph and Doug Gilmour as well longtime Canadiens star Guy Carbonneau are some of the luminaries who will play the Leafs/Canadiens alumni game Friday night at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Puck drop is 7:30.

Toronto:

Coaches: Johnny Bower, Ron Ellis.

Players: Wendel Clark, Dan Daoust, Bill Derlago, Doug Gilmour, Curtis Joseph, Derek King, Kris King, Nick Kypreos, Gary Leeman, Brad May, Bob McGill, Jeff O’Neill, Mark Osbourne, Steve Thomas, Rick Vaive, Rob Zettler.

Montreal:

Coaches: Yvan Cournoyer, Rejean Houle, Guy Lafleur.

Players: Steve Begin, Patrice Brisebois, Guy Carbonneau, Mathieu Dandenault, ...

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Marlies Back Outdoors

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They came from Arnold Park in Binghamton, New York, Valois Park in Montreal and countless backyard rinks in between.

Safe then to say that when the Toronto Marlies arrived at Ivor Wynne Stadium to practice for the AHL Outdoor Classic against the Hamilton Bulldogs it felt a bit like coming home.

The outdoor game, the first convened in Ontario, will be played Saturday. Puck drop is 1 p.m.

After conducting a brisk hour-long practice, Marlies coach Dallas Eakins was sitting in the stadium dressing room, an enclosure where you seem to be putting ...

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Ulmer Asks: Will A Trade Help The Leafs?

Brian Burke

Ryan Miller is one Gloomy Gus but if he is right, the Maple Leafs season may not be headed for a happy ending. See the video here

It’s Miller’s contention that no deal can shake the formaldehyde out of the Buffalo Sabres. What’s worth noting here is that the Sabres beat the Leafs in their last meeting and sit six points behind Toronto.

With 37 games to play, that’s far from insurmountable and it sets a mind to wondering: if no trade would save the Buffalo Sabres, can one salvage the ...

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Some New Year Thoughts

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When you work for a hockey team that hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967, you don’t throw a lot of stones.

It seems especially foolhardy to criticize the Montreal Canadiens, historically the most successful of all NHL teams.

But Quebec politicians and cultural sticklers have eviscerated the Canadians over the hiring of unilingual coach Randy Cunneyworth. Since then, the owner and the general manager have backpedalled furiously.

Faced with a mob, the Canadiens’ management put a gun against their own temples.
The problem with blending culture and a ruthless competetiveness is that you ...

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Can Reimer Regain Hero Status?

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On New Year’s Day it will be exactly a year since James Reimer slid between the pipes for good and changed the direction of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Since then, the Leafs have gone 42-30-12. They have outscored their opponents 247-224.

Everything started with Reimer.

But concussion or concussion-like-symptoms – take your pick – have limited Reimer to just 16 of the club’s 37 games. This year’s statistics look ghastly, in part because Reimer has only accrued a small window of work, in part because the numbers are bad.

Reimer’s .899 save percentage ranks him 36th ...

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Burke’s Faith Remains In Wilson

Ron-Wilson2

People talk about the weather all the time, Mark Twain said, but no one does anything about it.

People talk about fairness all the time. Brian Burke even did Monday afternoon when giving his reasons for extending Ron Wilson’s contract.

“It’s easy to say ‘fire the coach’ when the team isn’t winning, but when you haven’t given the coaching staff good enough players, I don’t think it’s fair,” he said.

Brian Burke thinks and speaks about fairness more than just about anyone I know but listening to someone go on about fairness is ...

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Not For The Faint Of Heart

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“He’ll be heading down to the medical room for repairs.”

How many times have you heard broadcasters casually intone those words when a player’s face has been sliced open by a stick, punch or puck?

Cuts to the mugs are so frequent, the play-by-play guys sound like they are issuing directions: turn left at the player’s bench, right at the dressing room door and head to the medical room for repairs.

This is someone’s face trickling if not gushing blood. Baseball blisters are a matter of much more concern than a wound to ...

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Who Is The Best Bet To Be A Cornerstone Player?

If you are wondering whether the Leafs are indeed on the upswing, if the team’s play over the last 12 months is really just a bubble in a bathtub full of failure, ask yourself this question.
If you were starting a new franchise right now, and you could draft just one Maple Leaf, who would it be?

Go ahead. Indulge me. Who is the best bet to be a cornerstone player?

James Reimer. Good choice. He’s 23 and while the sample size of 45 games is perilously small, you can argue that a ...

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What, We Worry?

I am a glass not just half full but a glass spilling out over the top soaking the feet of the ludicrously attractive, scandalously-attired female barkeep who has just won the 649 and is an instant away from announcing free drinks for everyone kind of guy.

I just don’t see how the Leafs aren’t going to make the playoff this year. Not only that, their odds increase substantially when the league re-aligns next season.

And I have some numbers to back it up in Ulmerstandings IX.

Ulmerstandings IX

To better gauge the strengths of ...

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Gardiner Opening Eyes Around Hockey

Remember those colouring books where if you connected the lines a jumble of numbers became a flower pot or a circus elephant?

In the NHL, most of the numbers are obscured because of the speed of the game, a bounce off the boards, an unexpected move from a veteran or the zeal of a rookie who has been just called up.

There are two kinds of great players. Some see the flowerpot. Others just ride on a heightened instinct. They feel it.

When the Oilers ran a young Wayne Gretzky through a battery ...

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Phaneuf Has Been Burke’s Pillar

When Brian Burke traded for Dion Phaneuf on January 31, 2010, he risked very little.

What he gained was the pillar on which every other acquisition has been positioned.

The players who went to Calgary, Jamal Mayers, Matt Stajan, Ian White and Nik Hagman were going to go somewhere. Ex-Leafs litter the NHL. Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski and Luke Schenn are the only holdovers from when Burke signed on three years ago Tuesday.

Ask Burke about the key moments in his time with the Leafs and he will start with January 31, 2010.

Phaneuf’s career had stalled in Calgary. Always a ...

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Missing One Of The Good Ones

About a year ago I climbed into a car driven by my friend Steve Dryden.

We drove to Buffalo to see Jim Kelley.

The man who met us was gaunt. He moved slowly. His voice faltered. His medical options were exhausted. At 61, he was dying.

We went to a restaurant he liked in Buffalo, a city he loved. We laughed.  We all kind of knew this was it.

Jim Kelley was a legendary sportswriter who spent most of his working life as the hockey guy for the Buffalo News. He filed a story ...

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Ulmerstandings: A Tale Of Two Trains…

Imagine two trains heading in opposite directions. The one heading north is Phil Kessel. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin is going the other way. You don’t really get the pace of the rise and fall until you see them together.

Saturday’s 7-1 Leafs win over the Caps provided that opportunity. Kessel was probably best player on the ice and notched a goal and an assist. Ovechkin was shut out and finished minus three. Ovechkin will drag a career high four-game goalless slump into tonight’s game with Phoenix. In that stretch he has finished ...

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