Mats Sundin had an outstanding hockey career. Most players don’t. Sundin also made a tremendous amount of money during his time in the NHL. Most players don’t.
Despite how fortunate Sundin was during his playing career, it took the former Toronto Maple Leafs captain some time to adjust to retirement and he realizes some current and former players might struggle with the transition.
“It’s a big adjustment and I think the National Hockey League Alumni [Association] has a big job to prepare players [for retirement] because we all know professional sports careers are short,” Sundin told Joey Vendetta on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Thursday. “If you’re lucky an average career is I think is not even five years. You need to really try to save and understand you need that money to build on the rest of your life and your career.”
Sundin spent 19 years in the NHL before retiring in 2009.
“I think the first year is always an adjustment for people and I think the biggest advice I can give [to former players] is you have to reflect on that your career as a professional athlete is very short and you have to try to get some momentum out of that to try to find something great to do the rest of your career as well.”
The 46-year-old was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2012 and was named one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players of all time in January.
Although he has kept a low profile since leaving the game, Sundin has managed to stay busy in retirement.
“I thought the National Hockey League was tough until I got three kids, and two of them are still in diapers, so we’re busy,” Sundin said before adding with a laugh, “I’m getting older as we speak.”
Sundin spent some time on vacation in Italy and France with former teammate Tie Domi earlier in the summer when the longtime Maple Leafs enforcer got married.
“For 11 years he had my back protecting me on the ice, so it was really nice to spend some days with him,” Sundin said. “Everybody’s spread out around the world so you don’t see each other so often so it’s nice to spend time with Tie.”
If you’re waiting to hear whether or not Sundin will get back into hockey in some capacity don’t hold your breath. The 2006 Olympic gold medallist was an advisor with Team Sweden at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey but Sundin called it a “one-tournament thing.”
“I really enjoyed it,” Sundin explained. “It was great to be part of Team Sweden as an advisor for Rikard Grönborg and his staff but since retiring from hockey I haven’t spent a whole lot of time around hockey except for some youth hockey and some charity things over in Sweden and also some stuff in Toronto.
“Obviously I still love the game of hockey but it’s nice for me to take a few steps back and reflect and start a family.”