With the Vancouver Canucks through to the playoffs, finishing the regular season as Northwest Division champions, the last thing on Mats Sundin's mind is poker.
As 2008 drew to a close hockey fans were waiting anxiously to hear what jersey Sundin would be putting on after leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs. As it turned out the organization he signed with wasn't even in the NHL.
Joining the likes of Boris "Boom Boom" Becker and Orel Hershiser, Sundin has been promoting PokerStars.net as a poker ambassador on television, online and at live poker events.
Shortly after inking the deal with PokerStars Sundin did join the Canucks in what's shaping up to be a season for the books. The playoffs are just days away and Sundin has been very clear where about where his priorities lie.
"My only focus at this point is to make sure I do my absolute best for the Vancouver Canucks," Sundin assured PokerListings in a video interview shot last week in Vancouver.
Like so many recreational poker players Mats finds the game to be a welcome diversion from the pressures of work.
"Playoff season is almost upon us so there's going to be limited time playing poker but it's still a great way for me to relax and get my mind off the game," he said.
Sundin has only suited up for big buy-in tournament poker once so far, at EPT Barcelona last September, but he plans to get back to the felt as soon as his hockey schedule allows.
If everything goes according to plan Sundin and the Canucks will still be on the ice when the World Series of Poker kicks off at the end of next month.
"I hope I'm playing hockey until the middle of June," Sundin said when asked if he'd be in Vegas for the beginning of the WSOP.
The World Series isn't the only reason for Sundin to head to Sin City this summer, however. The NHL Awards are being held at the Palms Hotel and Casino on June 18 and PokerStars.net is throwing the first NHL Charity Shootout to go along with it.
Sundin will be brushing up on his poker skills before the Main Event rolls around in July.
"I'm obviously a beginner when it comes to playing poker but I think I'm learning quick," he said.
The Main Event bracelet is every poker player's holy grail but Sundin has his sights set squarely on the Stanley Cup.
"I've tried 17 years for the Stanley Cup and I've never tried for the world [championship of poker] event so right now there's no doubt the Stanley Cup is the primary goal," Sundin said with a smile when asked which he would prefer to take down.
Sundin knows a thing or two about games of skill and he agrees with the growing group of players who see a big difference between poker and games of chance.
"You can talk as much as you want about luck, and obviously you need a bit of luck to be good at anything, but there's no doubt that there's a great game of skill you need to have," emphasized Sundin.
The big question on the minds of Sundin's fans is whether he'll be back on the Canucks' roster next season and whether he'll be defending Sweden's gold medal at the 2010 Olympics, also held in Vancouver.
Sundin chose not to comment on his plans for the future, but did say that poker might play a part.
"We'll see as my hockey career winds down if I try to play more poker," Sundin said.
Judging by the way he talks about the game it seems likely we'll see him at poker tables in years to come.
"You can sit at a poker table and get the same kind of excitement and adrenaline rush as you do playing in a National Hockey League game," he said. "I experienced that playing in the Barcelona [EPT] event."