UNIONDALE, N.Y. — John Tavares stepped on the ice 18 seconds into Thursday evening’s sport at Nassau Coliseum. For the primary 9 years of his NHL profession, this might have elicited cheers from New York Islanders followers. Besides now, for the primary time, Tavares was on Lengthy Island carrying a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, having left the Islanders for Toronto as a free agent final summer time.
So the followers booed Tavares, loudly and lengthily. They chanted “JT sucks!” and “We do not want you!” together with a couple of extra anatomical phrases. Each time he was close to the puck, they jeered.
John Tavares, who left the Islanders for the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent, returned to Nassau Coliseum for the primary time on Thursday evening.
That was throughout the sport. Earlier than the sport, the car parking zone was stuffed with followers who had defaced their Tavares Islanders jerseys with nameplates that learn “Traitor” and “Judas” and “Higher With out You,” and turned his No. 91 into pictures of snakes. They positioned his jersey on the street the place automobiles might run over it — in response to one Islanders fan, automobiles that missed the jersey on their first go had been instructed to drive over it once more. They burned his shirts and jerseys in effigy in massive oil drums.
Throughout warm-ups, they chanted and booed Tavares. Indicators papered the glass, disparaging him. One Islanders fan threw his Tavares jersey on the heart as he left the ice for the Leafs locker room.
It was fairly a scene, however one which Tavares, a former Islanders captain, mentioned he anticipated.
“I do not anticipate it to be a really welcoming return,” he mentioned earlier than the sport. “I am simply going to go on the market and play the very best I can and never fear about what I am unable to management.”
Leafs heart John Tavares was greeted with loud boos and chants — together with one in every of “we do not want you!” — in his return to Lengthy Island on Thursday evening. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports activities
Tavares was drafted first total by the Islanders in 2009 and shortly grew to become the face of the franchise. The subsequent 9 years had been lean so far as group success — Tavares performed in solely 24 playoff video games — however he scored 272 objectives and had 349 assists in 669 video games.
After sustaining that he needed to stay with the Islanders within the months main as much as unrestricted free company, Tavares determined to listen to the pitches of a number of groups at his brokers’ places of work. The Leafs had one which blew him away, and Tavares, an Ontario native, signed seven-year, $77 million contract along with his childhood group.
Islanders followers felt betrayed.
“I attempted to be open and trustworthy about my choice,” Tavares mentioned earlier than the sport.
The Islanders followers in attendance felt in any other case. With 10 minutes left within the first interval, the group ran a 60-second video tribute to Tavares. The followers drowned it out with boos and “We do not want you!” chants, earlier than their jeers reached a crescendo when “Thank You, John” appeared on the video boards.
Moments later, they chanted, “You are a liar.”