It was always assumed that John Tavares‘ return to Long Island as a visiting player would create a rather hostile environment. As soon as the Islanders’ long-time captain signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agency fans in New York immediately turned on Tavares and, well, just do not really have many warm and fuzzy feelings for him any longer.
Actually, they kind of hate him.
We saw just how intense those feelings are on Thursday night when the Tavares and the Maple Leafs made their first visit to Nassau Coliseum.
Jerseys were burned and destroyed in the parking lot before the game, Tavares Islanders jerseys had the name crossed out and replaced with “Traitor,” and “we don’t need you chants” echoed throughout the building even before the teams hit the ice for warmups.
Once they did hit the ice for warmups things only escalated.
At one point Tavares had a rubber snake thrown at him from the stands.
Then as Tavares was leaving the ice an Islanders fan threw a jersey at him.
The anger did not stop there!
During a stoppage early in the first period the Islanders organization welcomed Tavares back and thanked him for his many contributions to the team over the past decade with the type of tribute video that is customary in these sort of games, and it was completely and totally drowned out by boos, more “we don’t need you chants,” and then later a “you’re a liar” chant.
So … yeah … it has been every bit as hostile as you could have ever possibly imagined it would be.
The Maple Leafs make another visit to Long Island on April 1 and you can bet it will be a similar environment.