For Calgary Flames fans, many of them most likely had circled on their calendars the return of Matthew Tkachuk to the Scotiabank Saddledome.
This week saw him return for the first time as a member of the Florida Panthers, and while he got his praise on Tuesday night, fans let him know he’ll hear the boo birds moving forward.
The NHL is full of moments of franchise stars coming back in opposing colors for the first time. Some received cheers while others received a more heated homecoming. Here are five of some of the more memorable ones.
Chris Pronger Returns to Edmonton
There’s nowhere else to start. It was a return so intense it required additional security.
When Chris Pronger returned to Edmonton as a member of the Anaheim Ducks in 2006 after asking for a trade from the Oilers after their Stanley Cup run for personal family reasons, the fanbase let it be known they were not happy.
What seemed like could have been a long run of success with one of the game’s best blueliners came to an abrupt end after just one season in Northern Alberta.
On Nov. 26, 2006, Rexall Place became the most hostile building in the NHL. The “You suck” chants and boos don’t even take into account the sour signs.
“I made this Chris Pronger Sucks Sign for ‘Personal Reasons,’ ” read one of the signs. “Tell the Truth, Chris,” said another.
While the hostility could be considered to cross the line, 2006-07 was a challenging year for Oilers fans as they’d miss the playoffs following their run to their first Cup final since 1990.
Pronger would also get the last laugh as he’d make it back to the Cup final and win it with Anaheim.
‘The Flower’ Makes His Return to the Montreal Forum
Giving an opposing player a standing ovation and cheering when he scores on your team is something you rarely see, but when it came to the late, great Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens fans made an exception.
For the 1988-89 campaign, Lafleur returned to the hockey world after a four-year retirement, not in the colors of the Habs but in the red, white and blue of the New York Rangers.
On Feb. 4, 1989, Lafleur would return to a building where he had his greatest success to an amazing pregame ovation. The reverence the fans still had for him was amazing, but the sight of fans going wild as he’d score twice on Patrick Roy might have been the coolest part of the game.
The Canadiens would beat New York 7-5, but by how the fans reacted, seeing Lafleur grace the Montreal Forum again was way more important.
From Bedlam in Brooklyn to a Taunted Tavares at Nassau
Where were you when John Tavares made his return to Nassau Coliseum?
The pursuit of John Tavares defined the 2018 free agency, which the Toronto Maple Leafs won when they signed the hometown star to a seven-year deal worth $77 million. The response to Tavares leaving and his return to Long Island as a member of the Leafs didn’t exactly see a warm response.
Profanities and booing rained down from the stands of Nassau Coliseum when Tavares made his return in February 2019. Even the Islanders’ tribute video to their former captain saw a healthy dose of booing among the cheers while it played inside the arena.
The return of Tavares was easily one of the more hostile ones in recent memory. And while the Islanders won the game in convincing fashion, the head-to-head series since then has been closer, with Tavares’ Leafs winning five times and the Islanders winning the other three.
Mats Sundin’s Emotional Return to Toronto
Mats Sundin’s impact on the Toronto Maple Leafs will never be forgotten as one of the faces of the franchise in the ’90s and 2000s and as the franchise leader in goals and points. On and off the ice, he’s beloved and has a statue on Legends Row outside Scotiabank Arena.
The emotions were high when Sundin returned to Toronto as a member of the Vancouver Canucks during the 2008-09 campaign. On Hockey Day In Canada, The Canucks would escape Toronto with the two points after a 3-2 come-from-behind win that saw the shootout winner scored by none other than Sundin.
Even though Sundin’s return resulted in a Leafs loss, you can see and hear home fans cheering for a man that meant so much to the franchise no matter what uniform he was wearing.
No Cozy Feelings for Dany Heatley in Ottawa
In 2009, Dany Heatley simultaneously became a man that was booed in two markets at the same time: Ottawa and Edmonton.
The off-season of 2008-09 was marked by what appeared to be a deal to send the 50 in ’07 Senators star forward to the Edmonton Oilers for multiple assets before Heatley invoked his no trade clause to shut it down. Going to Edmonton was not happening, but soon after that, a deal would be made to send the forward to San Jose.
When Heatley returned to Ottawa on Feb. 2, 2010, for the first time since his trade request was fulfilled, Sens fans at the pre-game skate gave him a hostile welcome back to Canada’s capital. During the game was no better as “Heatley Sucks” chants reigned down.
In the end, the Sharks get the two points in a 4-0 win with Heatley picking up an assist in his return.
- Five NHLers with Memorable Returns in Opposing Colors
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