Thursday, Feb. 28 was arguably the most anticipated regular season game in NHL history. John Tavares, who was looked at as the savior of this once proud franchise, returned to Long Island after a very controversial decision to join the Toronto Maple Leafs this past offseason. On this night, fans took out their frustrations on the former captain. During warmups, the glass was filled with number 91 jerseys with words varying from traitor, snake, and some explicits. Rubber snakes and jerseys were thrown at him. The boos rained on throughout the game and during his video tribute. For Islander fans, it was a night to vent, a night to express how they felt towards a person who lied.
As memorable as it was to be at that game, a question lingered with me after the game. Will there ever be a time where Islanders fans will appreciate what John Tavares did for the Islanders? Should there be?
Now this question is very difficult to answer especially after the emotions that were let out by Islander fans when Tavares returned. Yes, John Tavares lied to the fanbase. Yes, John Tavares put Islanders plans in a blender at the time of his decision. But will Islander fans ever remember the good moments that came from the former captain?
Even though fans like myself have lost all respect for John Tavares, he still provided the Islanders with some of the greatest moments in franchise history. I still remember being at Barclays Center for Game 6 against Florida and that open net in double overtime. I still remember Game 3 against Washington and that poetic goal 15 seconds into overtime.
But unfortunately, I also remember Tavares lying for two years about how much he wanted to stay with the Islanders. You could see the fake smile the put on his face when he sat at Belmont Park for the announcement of the Islanders future home.
All the good memories mentioned above have a theme. Those moments were all about Tavares. With today’s New York Islanders, it is all about the team, not one individual, and the Islanders faithful has bought in to this process.
15 years from now, when John Tavares’ career will be over, will there still be 91 jerseys with “traitor” on the back? Will people ever just forget about him? Will the Islanders ever invite Tavares to an alumni night?
To answer that right now, it is an obvious no. Players who are honored at alumni nights are players who won Stanley Cups, former captains, and some who were fan favorites. But Tavares is the opposite of a fan favorite.
On Feb. 28, John Tavares was public enemy number one on Long Island. And it looks like it will stay that way throughout time. Sure, we will always remember the good moments, but we will also always remember the lies and the agony. Thanks for everything, John Tavares, but the wounds will take a long time to heal.