Jonas Gustavsson knows his life could have been very different.
He could have ended up a Shark. Or an Av. Or even a Star.
With Dallas in town to face Gustavsson and the Leafs tonight, the goaltender was reflecting in the dressing room this morning on his wild summer of 2009, one in which he was wooed by almost every NHL team and eventually visited four cities with the goal of choosing his hockey home. On July 7, he picked Toronto over San Jose, Denver and Dallas.
But not before he had a chance to meet the fomer U.S. president George W. Bush at a Texas Rangers game as part of the Stars' pitch to land the Swedish free agent.
He said every team used a little bit different strategy in trying to get him to sign there, but most involved their history in goal in some manner. The Leafs lined up all of the jerseys of previous well-known goaltenders and put a "Gustavsson" one at the end as part of a display during his visit.
"Wherever I went, it was the same thing," he said. "Colorado was Roy's jersey and then there was my jersey. The other teams it was my jersey and maybe another great goalie and here it was all the great jerseys.
"It was kind of fun. My equipment was ready for all the teams in their colours. They really did a great job. It felt weird. Everybody was just following me and I felt, I don't know, like a king. You could do whatever you want. I knew that once I signed, it wasn't going to be the same rules anymore."
The Stars' push involved Gustavsson meeting owner Tom Hicks and having him to throw out the first pitch at the Rangers game. That's where he shook hands with Bush, a strange experience for a 24-year-old hockey player from Stockholm.
"That was kind of a different day, but it was a lot of fun, too," Gustavsson said of his time in Dallas.
Understated and quiet, especially for a professional athlete, Gustavsson didn't admit it, but Texas hardly seems like his sort of place. He said he eventually chose Toronto for a variety of reasons.
"Brian Burke, first of all, showed the most interest in me," he said. "He flew a couple times to Sweden and did a great job there. Toronto's a big hockey market, big hockey history and actually the first jersey I got as a kid was a Toronto Maple Leafs one. I've still got a picture, I'm seven years old wearing it.
"So, the history, of course. The rebuilding of the organization, the rebuilding of the team and the great organization. The city's unbelievable, too, the fans are great. I can keep going and going. It wasn't a tough decision in the end."
He added that he doesn't ever reflect on what could have been had he ended up in California, Colorado or Texas instead.
"I'm really happy with my decision to play here," Gustavsson said. "I don't think about anything else because I feel like I found the right place for me."
So far in relief of J-S Giguere, who could return as soon as this weekend, Gustavsson has been excellent, allowing only three goals in 130 minutes of play and bumping his save percentage for the season up to .919.
He has gotten very little goal support to date, however, which has made it difficult for Toronto to pick up wins in his starts.