Toronto Maple Leafs: Islanders fans berate Tavares ahead of return

Ahead of John Tavares’ return to Long Island, New York Islanders fans gave him a reminder of what he gave up when he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs

Since John Tavares signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs last July, fans have had Thursday’s game circled on their respective calendars.

Tavares will play his first road game against the New York Islanders since leaving the organization in free agency. Additionally, the game will be played at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where the former Isles captain played for six of his nine seasons with the team.

Islanders fans will be mercilessly booing Tavares all night, and ahead of the most anticipated matchup of the season, Kevin Maher of News 12 produced a video featuring Islanders fans berating their former captain for his decision.

Warning: Video contains cringe-worthy material

The video drew the attention of both Leafs and Islanders fans for the wrong reasons, with the vast majority of individuals agreeing that the video was embarrassing and hard to watch.

Following his departure, Islanders fans did the now-customary jersey burning videos to really drive home their disdain for the centre. After the childhood photo of Tavares sleeping in Leafs bed sheets surfaced, they began calling him “Pyjama boy.”

While blind rage came over most fans, others recognized the 28-year-old’s significant contributions to the franchise during his tenure.

Tavares has flourished in his new surroundings. Paired alongside Mitch Marner, hd has 35 goals on the season and is on pace for 87 points, which would set a new career high.

The departure of Tavares has done little to squash the Islanders’ success this season, as the team currently sits atop the Metropolitan Division with a 36-18-7 record. They’ve gotten a Vezina-calibre campaign from Robin Lehner – who leads the league in both goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.931) – and steady play from Mathew Barzal. The second-year centre has 17 goals and 51 points on the year.

Toronto dealt with a similar heartbreak back in 2008, as longtime captain Mats Sundin refused to waive his no-trade clause, instead opting to leave the Leafs that offseason. He signed in Vancouver and proceeded to score the shootout winner in his return to the Air Canada Centre.

With time, there’s a chance Islanders fans loosen their stance on Tavares’ departure; however, it’ll be a volatile environment on Thursday. Leafs fans will be hoping their top goal scorer will help lead the team to a victory, while Barzal and Co. will be looking to make it two wins against Toronto this season.

A lot would have to happen for these two teams to meet one another in the postseason this year. But this game will definitely have a playoff-like atmosphere.