Every NHL player fears this moment.
They've been playing with the same team for many years to the point that home ice feels like a second home. Then something happens from the “business side of the game”. They are wearing a new uniform on a different team with different teammates. They return to the home they once called home only to discover that the visiting dressing room is now open.
The one carefully constructed and maintained to ensure the comfort of our heroes in their hometown. It's not the same one. The basement is the place to put your futon for house guests.
“It's awkward to walk in here and go to the visitors room. Vegas Golden KnightsCenter Jack Eichel said. Thursday night (7 p.m. ET on ESPN+), he's returning to face the Sabres in Buffalo for the first time since their rancorous split, one that ended with him being traded to Vegas.
For NHL players returning to their old arenas in a jersey from another team, it can be quite awkward.
They are all not lovefests. Jarome IginlaCalgary was the destination for our return trip with the Boston BruinsTo be released in 2013. a video tributeMultiple standing ovations, and his uniform number projected onto the ice. Sometimes it's as if Jesperi KotkaniemiMontreal welcomed back this season after signing an agreement sheet with the Carolina HurricanesHe was a Canadiens fan who treated him with affection the adulation of stepping barefoot on a Lego.
Eichel stated Wednesday that he wasn't sure what he was getting into when he walked in with Sabres fans.
It's certainly strange. However, I'm not alone in being traded to another team,” he stated. You have to think about the reception you will get. That is something I cannot control. No matter what the reception, I can manage it.”
What would the reception look like? We looked at the recent homecomings of 10 NHL players over the past 10 seasons. Based on four criteria, we ranked them 1-10.
Buzz refers to the excitement levels prior to the game
Emotions, either in celebration or hostility
Quality of game
Comeuppance refers to whether the former player or team had the last laugh of the night
Here are 10 Eichel-level returns, and how they worked out.
Kane-SJ | Duchene-COL
Nash-CBJ | Parise-NJ
O'Reilly-BUF | Alfredsson-OTT
Fleury-PIT | Luongo-VAN
Subban-MTL | Tavares-NYI
10. Evander KaneReturns to San Jose (Feb. 14, 2020)
Game quality: 3
Score total: 18
Kane's return as a member to San Jose Edmonton Oilershad the chance to be contentious or even venomous. His split with the Sharks was as acrimonious as it gets.
After he had served a 21-game suspension due to violating the league's COVID-19 policies, the Sharks refused him access to training camp. They then put him in the AHL. In January, they terminated his contract “for breaching his NHL Standard Player Contract” and for violating the AHL COVID-19 protocols. He was then forced to forfeit $22.8million from the remaining portion of his deal. In response, the NHLPA filed a grievance.
Kane and the Oilers were in San Jose when they played on Valentine's Day. Only 11,153 Sharks supporters were present. They cheered Kane's touch of the puck, and booed him when he was pushed to the ice. Nicolas MelocheIt was a close call. The Oilers won 3-0. Kane didn't record a point. The fans' general vibe mirrored the attitude of their franchise: They were just exhausted. Evander Kane.
9. Matt Duchene returns to Colorado (Oct. 26, 2018)
Game quality: 4
Score total: 23
Duchene was with the Avalanche for nine seasons. He requested a trade when he felt that the team was going into another rebuild. He requested a trade in 2016 when he believed the team was heading into (another) rebuild. However, that request wasn't met until November 2017 when he was sent to Ottawa by Colorado in the massive three-way trade. Kyle TurrisNashville, where the Avalanche ended up with a defenseman Samuel GirardThe defenseman would be the first-round selection. Bowen Byram. Not bad at all!
It was a quiet return. Duchene was traded almost one year ago, and he played his first game in Denver. Jared Bednar, the Avs coach, stated that while some of his fans loved him, others didn't. “I know Matt is motivated by the return of our team and I would love to show them what kind of team we have become.”
Duchene was recognized by the crowd during the first period of the Oct. 2018 meeting to mixed cheers and boos. However, some fans stood and applauded his gesture to the crowd.
It was then that it happened: Five secondsDuchene returned home after the divisive moment of homecoming. Cody CeciShot for a goal. In the second period, he would add another. The Avalanche proved to be a worthy opponent, scoring five goals unanswered for a 6-3 win against Duchene's team. Officially, this goal is the fastest ever scored by a returning player, who was booed after a tribute on the big-screen.
8. Rick NashReturns to Columbus (March 21, 2014.)
Game quality: 5
Score total: 24
The bright sunshine of the recent Rick NashNumber retirement ceremony by the Columbus Blue JacketsIt was far from his return to the helm as a member New York Rangers2014
The NHL trade deadline for 2012 revealed that Nash, who had been with Columbus for nine seasons, requested a trade.
(“Wow! Four playoff games!” — Jack Eichel, probably.)
The Blue Jackets failed to complete a deal before the deadline but reconnected with Rangers in July 2012 for him to be sent to Broadway in a swap that saw Artem Anisimov, Brandon DubinskyOthers return to the Jackets. Because the Rangers did not play Columbus during the lockout, 2012-13 season was cut short, so he waited till March 2014 to make his return.
The return of Nash to Columbus began well. A video tribute was met with a standing ovation. This is a player who gave his all for almost a decade. The mood turned to gloom when Nash rushed into the goalie position. Sergei BobrovskyHe shoved him and set off a melee. Former teammates were present during the third period. Matt CalvertIn a fierce fight, Nash and Nash took to the center ice. Said Calvert after the game:He had to pay for his actions. It was a stupid move.
Nash did not score a point, but the Rangers won 3-1. He did, however, have quite the journey.
7. Zach PariseReturns to New Jersey (March 20, 2014.)
Game quality: 9
Score total: 28
Parise and a fellow defenseman-free-agent defenseman were both released in July 2012. Ryan SuterLeft money available to sign matching 13 year, $98 Million contracts with the Minnesota Wild. Suter left The Nashville PredatorsParise left while she was still here New Jersey DevilsAs the unnamed most popular player on the roster, he was Martin BrodeurThey were especially grateful to him for helping them win the Stanley Cup Final earlier that season.
He returned to Newark only in March 2014. It was difficult to forget the emotions that he felt between his departure from Newark and his reunion. as Devils fans booed him every time he touched the puckHe also brought signs calling him a traitor. He was given the biggest cheer when he was penalized for hooking in the first period. Although he didn’t score a point, he did help create a goal that cut down the Devils’ lead by half. This goal led to overtime where his three former teammates scored the winning goal.
“It was quite strange to go back to the rink for the game, but it was very enjoyable. Parise stated that it was a pleasure to return.
Fast forward to 2021 and Parise's contract was purchased by Wild. He can now return to the East Coast…with the Wild. New York IslandersLou Lamoriello, former Devils GM, is the manager of this facility.
6. Ryan O'Reilly returns To Buffalo (March 17, 2019)
Game quality: 8
Score total: 29
The Buffalo SabresTrade O'Reilly to St. Louis BluesHe admitted that he lost his love for the game during a losing season on July 1, 2018. This was three months after he said that – basically, he was punching his ticket out of Buffalo after three seasons.
It looked for a while like a lateral move as the Blues were still in the basement division. O'Reilly was able to return to Buffalo on March 17, 2019, despite being in the middle of a series of injuries. St. Louis's “worst-to-Stanley Cup champions” turnaroundThat saw him leading the team in scoring. In contrast, the Sabres had won only two of their 15 previous games. The whole thing was quite awkward.
O'Reilly received mixed cheers and boos during the early portion of the game. O'Reilly was the Blues' final shooter and needed a goal to extend the score. They returned in force when O'Reilly dropped the puck off of the post for the Sabres' win and a brief measure of vengeance. It's not surprising, O'Reilly got the last laugh that season.
5. Daniel AlfredssonReturns to Ottawa (Dec. 1, 2013,)
Game quality: 6
Score total: 30
There was not much mystery about the outcome. Alfredsson was the most loved player in franchise history. He played 17 seasons in Ottawa. He claimed that the team had made an informal agreement in which Alfie signed a two-year cap-friendly deal to extend his contract. However, the extension never came. Detroit Red Wings. Eugene Melnyk, the Senators' owner, would argue that Alfredsson's purchase wouldn't have allowed them other improvements to their team.
Melnyk wasn’t Mr. Alfredsson was more popular than Melnyk — Senators fans still hope Alfredsson can find a way for them to purchase the franchise — so it was possible that the return of the former captain could have been a referendum on ownership. It was a celebration of Alfredsson’s legacy that included a 67-second video and long ovations.
Alfredsson assisted with the game's opening goal and, more poetically, the empty netter. This clinched the 4-2 win for Red Wings against an Ottawa team that was 10-33-4 and would eventually miss the playoffs.
4. Marc-Andre FleuryReturns to Pittsburgh (Feb. 6, 2018,)
Game quality: 8
Score total: 31
Some player return are contentious. Some are contentious. Others are joyous. Fleury's return to Pittsburgh fell squarely into the latter category. Fans made Fleury's first game back in Pittsburgh as a Golden Knights member a joyful outpouring.
The glass was lined with thank you signs from fans to show their appreciation for his 13 seasons as a Penguins player. He played an integral part in the winning three Stanley Cups. Matt MurrayFleury was then sent to the expansion Golden Knights. He was praised by the team in a video tribute lasting nearly two minutes. The fans continued to cheer for Fleury for almost two more minutes.
Fleury declared, “I was happy to have the mask on.”
Murray (21) and Fleury (33) had not had stellar nights. In overtime, the Penguins won 5-4. However, it was not about what happened that night but all of the nights when The Flower bloomed here in Pittsburgh.
3. Roberto Luongo returns to Vancouver (Jan. 8, 2015)
Game quality: 7
Score total: 32
Luongo was unsure what to expect when he returned to Vancouver with the Florida Panthers. He was traded to the New York Stock Exchange in March 2014. It ended a lengthy soap opera. Cory SchneiderSeeing Schneider traded by the Canucks to Luongo's 12-year contract, and Luongo finally agreeing to trade to the Panthers. Luongo starred with them from 2001-02 to 2005-04.
Luongo was criticized by Canucks fans during his time in Vancouver, particularly for his postseason performances. He was greeted by a standing ovation and an in-game tribute from Panthers fans when he returned home to Vancouver. They weren't booing – they were “Louuuuuu”ing!
Luongo rose to this occasion and stopped 32 of 33 shots for the Panthers, a win of 3-1 in a meeting between teams in the playoff hunt. The night's highlight was Luongo's being named the game’s first star. He received another standing ovation from the crowd and was then able to toss his stick at Vancouver fans, arousing their applause as he left the ice. This, my friends, is closure.
2. P.K. SubbanReturns to Montreal (March 2, 2017,)
Game quality: 8
Score total: 34
Subban was everything to Montreal. He was a star player and won a Norris Trophy. Subban was also a lightning rod for criticism from those who misunderstood or undervalued him. Subban was also a philanthropist through his numerous charitable efforts that focused on the well-being of children. And finally, Subban was the pivot point in a massive trade that took GM to Montreal in June 2016. Marc BergevinFor Nashville, send him! Shea Weber.
Subban returned to Montreal in March 2017 and we witnessed all of it. The tribute video had just as many off-ice highlights as it did game highlights. He stood on the ice, watching the clip as the crowd chanted his name. Tears streamed down his face while he was being recited his name.
“All those memories return, whether it was stuff about the hospital or children, family, colleagues, or teammates, hockey games, emotionally games, and it felt like I shared that sentiment with all of the fans and the community, and I guess that's where it all came out,” he said following the game.
Subban's assistance on the Predators power-play goal in the first period was the perfect way to sum up the moment. When Subban touched his puck, the crowd cheered. It sailed into Canadiens' goal. Fans at Bell Centre were thrilled, but then they realized they were supporting their enemy. Then there were boos.
Montreal won the game 2-1. Weber played a vital defensive role throughout the game, shutting down a Nashville offense that was hot. So it was Carey PriceSubban was amused when he squirted water from his bottle at him during the game. They were friends for seven years in Montreal. As the rest of that night, their bond was a reminder for P.K. of what was and what might have been. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens.
1. John TavaresReturns to Long Island (February 28, 2019).
Game quality: 5
Score total: 35
I have covered many events including high-school football rivalries, Stanley Cup Finals and both the Winter Olympics (and Summer Olympics). None of them had the incendiary emotional vibe that existed at Nassau ColiseumJohn Tavares was back in New York to face the Islanders on the night that he was killed. This was a unique moment that I witnessed. It was filled with so much bile, that you would need rain boots to navigate it.
Tavares was drafted as the Islanders' first overall pick in 2009. He served nine years as their franchise star. When Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello were hired as coaches, Tavares approached free agency. The opening of their new arena at Belmont Park was just a few years away. Long Island was moving in a positive direction… until Tavares left. Toronto Maple Leafs via a seven-year free-agent contract. The Islanders' desperate courtship with their fans was unsuccessful.
Fans desecrated Tavares jerseys in preparation for his return to Toronto. They created electrical tape nameplates reading “LIAR” or “JUDAS” as a way of marking their territory. They ran over his jersey on the parking lot as if he were a speed bump. They chanted, “We don't need your!” They also tossed a rubber snake on the ice. Leafs defenseman Justin HollTavares joked, “At most they forgot!” [about you].”
The chants became more anatomical as they went on throughout the game. During the first period, the Islanders performed a 60 second video tribute to Tavares. The audio was drowned out by boos. The Islanders won 6-1, and Tavares did not score a point.
I remember Tavares, who was holding a postgame media access under the stands at Nassau while calmly discussing his decision to quit the Islanders, as he was interrupted and yelled “JOHN YOU SUCK!” From the seating area.
Not all homecomings are welcome.
@wyshynskiCan I receive a jersey foul decision? pic.twitter.com/X8aHkFl5WZ
— Kendall Aubertot (@kndl) February 26, 2022
In fairness, Colorado AvalancheCenter Nazem KadriHe told me that he was “hoping to put that stuff behind me”When it comes to his multi-game postseason suspensions. However, that hasn't stopped Avs fans getting ready for the playoffs.
Weekly winners and losers
Winner: Jaromir JagrThe legacy of's
Jagr, 50 years old, has been a huge influence in moving Kladno's regular season finale to O2 Arena, Prague. use ticket proceeds to benefit Ukrainian familiesAfter Russia's invasion, Czech Republic residents sought asylum. The NHL raised $68,000, and the event raised $160,000.
Loser: Alex OvechkinThe legacy of's
Ovechkin's support for Vladimir Putin — who remains his Instagram profile co-star— is now subtext to his accomplishments. Tying Jagr for third in all-time goalsIt should be a time for joy and celebration. Ovechkin's politics are unavoidable in contrast to Jagr’s.
The scoring surge continues beyond the COVID-19 lineup interruptions. The NHL's scoring average has been 3.09 goals per game over 909 games. This is higher than the 2005-06 average, also known as the post-lockout oddball seasons. If this holds, it will be the highest level since 1995-96, which was the tipping point of the dead puck era. It's wild times.
Losers needing goalies
I'm still not convinced Marc-Andre FleuryIs going to move before the trade deadline Braden HoltbyThis is a great option for those who want to have playoff experience. Semyon VarlamovIt has an additional year of term, and a high price tag. It will then have to pay draft capital for a lateral move, or worse, a downgrade. The summer should have seen teams get on the goalie cartousel!
Winner: Auston Matthews
Toronto's star has 60 goals in his sights and is currently at the top of Hart Trophy. This is due to his scoring prowess as well as a growing appreciation for his defensive game. The best part? With him, the debate about who is the best player in the world has been reopened. Connor McDavid. Let the fun begin!
Loser: Michael Bunting
Matthews' linemate Bunting leads rookies in goals (20), and points (46), however in our latest Awards Watch he didn't receive a single first-place vote. (All of those votes went to Mo SeiderYou can find the Detroit Red Wings Trevor ZegrasYou can find the Anaheim Ducks.) Can a 26 year-old rookie win Calder? With whom he plays, it is possible that he will make an undisputed case for stats by season's end.
Winner: Phil Kessel
Phil the Thrill ice skated one game against Detroit on Tuesday night before jumping on an organized charter flight by Alex Meruelo, Coyotes owner, to return home for the birth his child. His streak of iron man reached 956 games. This is second in NHL history. Our sweet boy deserves the best. We wish you all the best.
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Emily Kaplan sat with Jack Eichel ahead of his return to Buffalo.