From November 15th-17th, over 40 individuals took part in the third Mats Sundin VIP Hockey Experience. An action-packed weekend where contest winners from LeoVegas.net were able chat and skate alongside NHL Alumni members in a series of games. The event weekend kicked off at the Delta Hotel in downtown Toronto. While the Toronto Maple Leaf’s game was played in the background, winners were able to mingle with NHL Alumni members and enjoy delicious cocktails and food. After everyone settled in, a hot stove chat took place with Christine Simpson, Glenn Healy, Mats Sundin, Bryan Berard, Gary Roberts and Fredrik Modin. The group talked about their time in the NHL with Healy making jokes the whole way. Afterwards people were able to ask questions to get better insight into their history playing in the NHL or just questions they have always wanted to ask their heroes.
“I think that each of these guys have the life skills- that we have learned through sports- that have molded us into great ambassadors.” Healy stated about the group. “Hockey provides you with many life lessons, so yeah Sundin probably knew he was going to make the NHL as soon as he came out of the birth canal,” he joked.
The VIP weekend continued with each of the two teams suiting up for a good old-fashioned hockey game at the Ford Performance Centre. There were a variety of skill levels on the ice with the help of Mats Sundin and other NHL Alumni members, including Nick Kypreos, Fredrik Modin, Gary Roberts, Steve Thomas, Nicklas Lidstrom and Bryan Berard. Behind the bench was Glenn Healy to run the lines. The speed and skill of Sundin was on full display as he was racking up points and in one instance even scored on a breakaway by kicking his stick to shoot the puck.
“When Steve Thomas came to the Toronto Maple Leafs, when I played with him, he taught me the kick shot and I got to try it out and it worked,” Sundin said recalling the goal.
Participant Taylor Simpson had a different experience on his breakaway, recounting one of the funniest moments of his weekend playing with the NHL greats, “when I used to play hockey I’d be known to go on a breakaway and then miss the net. So I was on a breakaway yesterday and I was thinking, oh, what if that happens again? What if I miss the net? But that didn’t even have a chance to happen because Mats Sundin strips me at the last minute, stole the puck. I didn’t know who it was and when he turned back, I just see number 13 flash and thought, ‘oh, well that makes sense.’” he laughed.
Later in the night, a private watch party was hosted at Real Sports Bar & Grill in downtown Toronto. Watching the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Pittsburgh Penguins as food and drinks were served, everyone unwound and traded stories about their on-ice experience earlier that day. They were also joined by Sundin and the rest of the group to take photos, sign autographs and finish off a fun-filled day.
In day two of the games, the pace picked up a bit. Noting the skill on the ice, Taylor Simpson stated, “It was amazing to be around these guys. How often do you get access to being around not just one NHL Alumni but a bunch of them all at once? Being on the ice with them was amazing. The size, the speed, the skill. When you see them on TV everyone’s kind of the same, but next to an average joe like me and some of the other guys you can really see the strength of these guys and how they made it to the NHL.”
After the conclusion of the final game, lunch was held in the Hockey Hall of Fame D.K. (Doc) Seaman Hockey Resource Centre. Waiting for everyone was a gift to commemorate the weekend, a signed and framed picture of each participant with Mats Sundin as well as a group photo.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend for me. This is this third time we’ve done it, hopefully we can continue to do it and make it a tradition. Perfectly run and it’s been a lot of fun,” said Sundin summarizing the weekend. “It’s been a great camp for both LeoVegas guests and NHL Alumni. Big thanks to the LeoVegas team and also Glenn Healy and the whole NHL Alumni Association.”
Special thank you to Mats Sundin, Bryan Berard, Gary Roberts, Fredrik Modin, Nick Kypreos, Nicklas Lidstrom, Bryan McCabe and Steve Thomas for coming out to support the NHL Alumni at this great event and create memories for each and every participant!