Max Domi Mats Sundin split image GLO bug

STOCKHOLM -- Mats Sundin chuckled this week when informed that Max Domi said the Hall of Famer’s waterfront home in Sweden looks “like paradise.”

“Maybe in the summer,” Sundin told, breaking into a wry grin. “But not in November.”

For Domi, it doesn’t matter what season of the year it is as long as he gets the opportunity to spend time with the man he refers to as “like family.” And that could come as early as Thursday when he is expected to meet with Sundin and his wife Josephine, daughter Bonnie and sons Nathanael and Julian.

Making his first trip to Sweden, the Toronto Maple Leafs forward is excited to see his hero and mentor. The fact that the Maple Leafs are in Stockholm this week to play a pair of games in the 2023 NHL Global Series Sweden presented by Fastenal has provided a stage for a reunion of love and mutual respect.

When you look inside their relationship, it’s a special one built on a foundation that dates back more than two decades, when Sundin and Tie Domi, Max’s dad, were teammates with the Maple Leafs.

And it’s one that has flourished ever since.

“He means everything to me, man” Domi said in a recent interview. “He’s just one of the best, if not the best Maple Leafs of all time, and he earned it all. So, he was my favorite player and the guy I’ve looked up to my entire life for that exact reason.”

Domi’s respect for Sundin runs much deeper than the on-ice exploits of the former Maple Leafs captain, who holds the franchise record for goals (420) and points (987).

“He was a very close family friend of ours and is like family to me to this day,” Domi said. “He was one of my dad’s best friends. So yeah, he’s a huge part of my life and a big reason why I fell in love with the game of hockey and a big reason I was and still am a Leafs fan.

“And yeah, you’ve got to give him a lot of credit for my development in a lot of ways. And whether it’s on the ice or off the ice, the advice he always gave me, well, the list goes on.

“I’m just very, very grateful and thankful for our relationship.”

Mats Sundin Max Domi floated

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.”

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