The feeling is mutual.
Sundin and Tie Domi were in their first season as teammates with the Maple Leafs when Max was born on March 2, 1995. They were different in so many ways, the yin and yang of friendship as it were, yet had a unique bond that grew with every subsequent season they played together.
Mats was a tall, skilled forward from Sweden whose playmaking and finishing abilities were elite. Tie was a short, tough enforcer from Windsor, Ontario, who would not back down from anyone and always had the backs of his teammates.
When Max started coming to his dad’s games at a young age, he would often sit in the cubicle next to Sundin’s and talk to him while Tie was getting treatment in the trainers’ room. They would have impromptu games inside the Maple Leafs dressing room, using rolled up tape balls as pucks and a pair of gloves to mark the goal.
Sundin soon became interested in Max’s minor hockey career when he started playing in organized leagues.
“I mean, I remember playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the late 90s and early 2000s and going to watch Max play kids hockey around the Toronto area with Tie,” Sundin recalled. “And also having him in the dressing room when we played for all those years.
“Obviously I've watched Max since he was 8, 9 years old, to what he became today. It’s been fantastic to follow his career and what he's done. And all while he’s had type 1 diabetes. It’s been fantastic, just fantastic.”
Domi recalls multiple occasions when he would skate with Mats, some at Scotiabank Arena. In one such instance, they posed for a famous photo; Sundin in his Maple Leafs jersey, Max in his Toronto Marlboroughs minor hockey jersey.
“I remember that pic,” Max said. “I was a captain of the team and wore No. 13 because of him. We weren’t wearing the exact same jersey, but pretty similar colors and both had one three on the back and a C on the front. There's almost like a Sundin and Domi connection, but in this case a senior and junior kind of thing.
“Pretty special stuff that, I mean, I'll remember for the rest of my life.”
So was seeing Sundin score his 500th NHL goal on Oct. 14, 2006. Max was 11 years old at the time.
“It was overtime against the Calgary Flames and Miikka Kiprusoff,” Domi said. “If I watch that now I still get goosebumps because, I mean, you can feel the energy and what it meant to the city when you watch it.
“Off the ice, watching him and how everyone kind of like, well, I don’t want to say idolize, but, like, when he spoke, everyone listened. He had this aura about him. He’d walk down the hallway whether he was going to shower or work out, and everyone just kind of like poured out of the way because he had so much respect. And rightfully so.
“He had so much presence. He didn’t have to say much. He let his actions do the talking for him. And what I admire about that is that he was such a great captain, a great leader, a great team guy.”
As Domi’s NHL career progresses, Sundin has always been in his corner, coming to Toronto to see his games and providing tips on how to stay physically fit as Max gets older.
“We talked a lot about the offseason training,” Sundin said. “I mean, guys nowadays are in such great shape and doing so well. And the Toronto Maple Leafs have a great setup there.
“Still, it’s nice to be there for him and talk hockey with him and general questions around the game. Like I said, just try to be there for him.”
Sundin will do more than that Thursday. Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said the Maple Leafs legend will join them for a staff dinner here in Stockholm as part of the team’s day off.
For Max, seeing Sundin will further motivate him for one of the prime goals of his career.
“I think Mats is still underrated when history looks at him,” Max said. “And think about this. My dad and Mats, for all the great things they did, they never got to win a Stanley Cup with the Leafs.
“I think there is some unfinished business there, not just for me, but for all three of us.”