As John Tavares prepared to return to his NHL stomping grounds of Long Island as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, many had an inkling that a hero’s welcome wouldn’t be coming. There would be some early booing and perhaps a smattering of hyper-critical signage held by fans – nothing too unforeseen. Then, perhaps, as the game got going, Islanders fans would begin to focus more on the guys who currently wear their colours, not someone who no longer does.
Well, if you watched the game or caught the highlights of it, you witnessed an anti-Tavares sentiment soar through Nassau Coliseum with the force of a torrential tornado touching down. The anger expressed by jilted Islanders fans was vast and far less comical than a certain boo-hoo video that spun through the Internet ahead of Tavares’ return.
Chants of “asshole” echoed in the arena at various points of the night, even as the Islanders saluted their former captain with a tribute video. “We don’t need you” was another popular chant, while Tavares 91 jerseys that now read “traitor” or “snake” on the back were en vogue.
Let’s also give a shout out to the intellectuals of the Islander fan base who thought it’d be within their right to toss a plastic snake and Islanders jersey in Tavares’ direction – when his eyes were fixated elsewhere. Classy.
It’s long been said that the ticket-buying public can holler just about anything at a player, as long as hate speech is left at the door. It’s also understood that you can dislike a hockey player because he either scorched your team by leaving it, hitting it, or scoring lots against it. That said, what we witnessed on February 28, 2019 at the Nassau Coliseum was a fan base choosing rage and ignorance over common sense and understanding.
In nine seasons with the New York Islanders, John Tavares was the dude. He put up 621 points during the regular season, 308 of which were goals, and was viewed as a role model in the community.
However, regular season success rarely translated to postseason success. With Tavares, the Islanders only made the playoffs three times, winning just a round. Some could blame Tavares for that, but the reality is that the Islanders organization rarely surrounded him with enough talent to seriously pursue a long playoff run.
With the chance to come home to Toronto ahead of the 2018-19 season, Tavares opted to do so. He saw a rising club with the likes of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in the fold and decided it was time to take his career in a different direction.
As a result, Islanders fans are a frustrated, jealous bunch. Even though their team’s performance is positively surprising some NHL observers, they can’t help but still focus on the one who got away. That’s fine, but the way Tavares was treated upon his return was shameful and telling.
If a fan base is uneducated, unrealistic and unmannered enough not to understand the point of free agency and a human being’s right to pursue a different path in life, they deserve to be left holding the bag.
Throughout it all, Tavares has taken the high road. As an Islander, he experienced lots of losing, continual organizational dysfunction, not to mention arena issues that persist to this day. Not once did he demand a trade or have a memorable outburst pointed at the Islanders franchise.
As a Maple Leaf, Tavares faced a lynch mob in Long Island very much interested in explicitly airing its grievances against him. Post-game, he could’ve lashed out and called out Islanders fans for what they were being: unnecessarily hateful and crude.
Instead, Tavares let it go. By doing so, he proved that the Islanders fans don’t deserve a player of his magnitude and character.
The Fan Auctions specializes in auctioning authentic sports and entertainment memorabilia.
Join us on March 5, 2019 at 9pm EST for the launch of Auction 40!
Until then, we do encourage you to visit our online Marketplace.