TORONTO – Mats Sundin is coming back to Toronto … to play in a charity hockey game.
While the Swede still hasn’t decided if he’ll return to the NHL this season, he has signed on to participate in the Festival Cup at Air Canada Centre on Sept. 5.
The game will feature NHLers and celebrities playing in support of Right To Play, an international charitable organization that uses sport to improve the lives of children and communities affected by war, poverty and disease.
Speculation about Sundin’s future has grabbed headlines all summer. His decision to join several other recognizable NHLers will only add to the profile of the major charity event.
“That’s huge,” said Boston Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference, another participant.
Sundin has been notably absent from skating sessions in his native Sweden this summer while trying to decide whether he wants to return for another season. He’s spent the last 14 years in Toronto but has received contract offers from a number of teams, including the Maple Leafs.
However, his desire to get back on skates next week doesn’t seem to be motivated by anything more than the chance to help a charity.
Ference was one of the first hockey players to get involved with Right To Play. He and Steve Montador travelled to Tanzania last summer and visited orphanages and schools where the organization has set up programs for children.
The 29-year-old spent most of this summer in British Columbia and is looking forward to making his way to Toronto next week to support Right To Play – “All they have to do is call me and ask me for something like that and it’s an immediate yes,” he said.
Joining him and Sundin at the Festival Cup will be fellow NHLers Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Steven Stamkos, Mike Green, Curtis Joseph, Matt Stajan, Robyn Regehr, Mike Cammalleri, Wojtek Wolski, Derek Roy and Sean Avery. The celebrities include Tim Robbins, Alan Thicke, “Juno” director Jason Reitman, D.B. Sweeney and Cameron Bancroft.
The honourary captains for the game are Doug Gilmour and Luc Robitaille.
It’s a night that Ference is excited to be part of.
“We don’t have the time to go out and be the true workers, which are the volunteers that spend a year in Africa,” he said. “We don’t have that liberty but we can definitely do our part back here just to get people to realize what it’s all about.
“I think that’s working.”
And for that reason, he welcomes all the attention that is bound to come with Sundin’s appearance in Toronto.
“With awareness, comes more support from the public,” said Ference.
Tickets for the game cost $25 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster or at the Air Canada Centre box office.