Nick Kypreos gives Sportsnet.ca special insight into his recent trip to Sweden where he talked to Mats Sundin about his future plans.
By Nick Kypreos
As I stood awaiting my departure to Stockholm, many thoughts ran through my mind. Among them, how do I get the hockey world to see a side of Mats people rarely see? Right now Mats has the best poker face in the NHL. The public seems to be split right down the middle on what he’ll decide.
Oh, did I not mention Mats isn’t just another star player I sat down in front of the camera with? Heck no!
For anyone who can remember that far back, Mats, who I consider an ol’ friend, is the last of a dying breed in my life — a living, breathing, former teammate of mine who can still play the game!
In case you haven’t noticed most, if not all, of my playing mates have all been put to pasture. Dino, Mess, Leetchie, Killer, Tie; they’re are all done like dinner while Mats remains in the forefront.
While I have great admiration for many of the 200 or so teammates I played with, I did manage to ask only one to stand up for me at my wedding exactly 10 year ago this month. Yeah, you probably guessed that ‘the Big Swede’ was who I am talking about. I was honoured Mats didn’t hesitate when I asked him to stand beside me on the most important day of my life.
So within a six-week period of retiring from the NHL and getting married, my life changed forever. I said goodbye to my hockey team and hello to my Sportsnet team and do you think that was easy? First thing I was told when I was hired by Scott Moore (who now runs CBC Sports) was ‘You’re a national broadcaster now and you can’t let your friendships with players get in the way of telling your story.’ And while I totally agree with that philosophy, 10 years later I still sit here saying, “Damn you Scott Moore for sharing that tidbit like it was a Sunday walk in the park!"
When I look back at the last 10 years I’m amazed I got through those early critical years without checking myself into the Betty Ford Clinic. Besides adjusting to retirement I also had to adjust to a new career that included criticizing friends and former teammates like Mats. Now how do you suppose I do that, Scott Moore? That was not in the broadcaster’s brochure!
When I retired from hockey, the restless nights worrying about fighting Chris Simon, Marty McSorley and Kenny Baumgartner were supposed to be over, yet I found myself lying awake worrying about whether I’d said something to offend one of my mates from the previous 12 years. And I’m not going to lie to you, there were some nights I know Mats was downright pissed off at me for saying what I said about either him, his teammates or his organization.
While it was a hard pill to swallow at that time, I had no issues with Mats letting me know. After all, that’s what captains and leaders are supposed to do: protect their own no matter what the circumstances are. And I totally respected that from Mats.
In saying that, I needed to hold my ground, too, because I was told that’s what good broadcasters were supposed to do: speak your mind in the broadcast world and stand by what you believe in and hope former teammates like Mats find a way to respect it as well.
So here I am 10 years later, trying to figure out where an old friend’s head is at and, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. What mattered was I got an invite from a friend to come to his hometown for an interview despite some bumpy times we’ve had over the years. That’s enough to tell you everything you need to know about Mats’ character and conviction. Whatever he finally decides, I can assure you of one thing, I’ll respect his decision. He’s earned it. The great ones always do.