Sundin to play charity hockey game in Toronto

Mats Sundin will return to Toronto when the unrestricted free agent centre skates in the Festival Cup charity game at the Air Canada Centre on Sept. 5.

Mats Sundin will make his return to Toronto when the unrestricted free agent centre skates in the Festival Cup charity hockey game at the Air Canada Centre on Sept. 5.

The veteran of 14 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs has spent the entire summer deliberating if he'll return to the NHL, but he has signed on to join a group of current and former NHL players and celebrities skating 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.

Sundin's appearance doesn't seem to be motivated by anything more than the chance to help a charity, but his return to the city where he played for so long will continue to fuel speculation about his potential return.

At 37, he was Toronto's most prolific forward last season, leading the Maple Leafs with 32 goals and 78 points in 74 games.

Sundin, Toronto's all-time leader in goals and points, became a free agent on July 1 and his future has been the stuff of headlines ever since.

He has reportedly drawn interest from a handful of NHL teams including the Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and most notably, the Vancouver Canucks, who offered him $10 million US per season over one or two years.

Sundin joins star-studded lineup

The addition of Sundin to an already impressive lineup can only add to the profile of the major charity event, according to Boston Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference, who was one of the first hockey players to get involved with Right To Play.

"With awareness, comes more support from the public," he said.

Ference, 29, and Anaheim Ducks defenceman Steve Montador travelled to Tanzania last summer and visited orphanages and schools where the organization has set up programs for children.

He's excited to have the opportunity to contribute to the cause in his own way this summer.

"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."

Other NHL players who have committed to the event include: Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Steven Stamkos, Mike Green, Curtis Joseph, Matt Stajan, Robyn Regehr, Mike Cammalleri, Wojtek Wolski, Derek Roy and Sean Avery.

That group will be joined by celebrities such as Tim Robbins, Alan Thicke, "Juno" director Jason Reitman, D.B. Sweeney and Cameron Bancroft.

The honourary captains for the game are former NHL'ers Doug Gilmour and Luc Robitaille.

With files from the Canadian Press