Tonight Dany Heatley returns to Ottawa to play against the team he desperately wanted to leave. Over in the NBA, some guy named LeBron comes back to the city of Cleveland, who is pretty upset with him for some reason.
Professional sports are strange. Thanks to trades and free agency, a player you once despised could end up on your favourite team. Of course, that also means that a player you once adored could end up walking into your home arena as a member of the opposition.
Depending on how that player left, this is when things can get ugly.
Today, in celebration of Heatley’s and LeBron’s returns to the cities they once spurned, we’re going to take a look at some our favourite moments of NHL players returning to their former homes.
Wayne Gretzky Returns To Edmonton
It was the biggest trade in NHL history. Wayne Gretzky was leaving the Oilers. Edmonton fans took their wrath out on Peter Pocklington, but cheered Wayne upon his return. Gretzky recorded two assists against the Oilers in front of a sold our crowd in Edmonton. For some reason, video of this game does not exist anywhere on the Internet.
Guy Lafleur Returns To Montreal
Lafleur was not traded from the Habs and he didn’t leave the team due to free agency. He retired from hockey at the end of the 84-85 season but came out of retirement and signed with the New York Rangers in 1988. He scored twice in his first game back in the Forum, but the Rangers lost the game 7-5. Montreal fans chanted his name throughout the game.
Mats Sundin Returns to Toronto
Despite many fans feeling Sundin should have waived his no trade clause in 2008, he was still loved by the Leafs Nation. In his first game back in the Air Canada Centre as a member of the Canucks, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. He went on to score the game-winning goal in a shootout.
Jaromir Jagr Returns to Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Penguin fans are not a forgiving bunch. Ever since Jagr remarked that he was “dying alive” in Pittsburgh and demanded a trade, they held a grudge. He was booed in his return to Pittsburgh as a Capital and the booing remained for his entire career. Even years later as a member of the Rangers, Jagr was booed every time he touched the puck in Pittsburgh. In his first game back, however, the team showed a video package of Jagr highlights and the crowd cheered. Then they went back to booing him.
Marian Gaborik Returns to Minnesota
Gaborik played his first game in Minnesota as a member of the Ranger just a few weeks ago. He was booed in warm-ups and during the team introductions, but he recorded one assist and the Rangers won the game 5-2.
Mike Modano Returns to Dallas
Modano played as a member of the Stars/North Stars for over 20 years. This season he returned to Dallas as a member of the Detroit Red Wings. A video highlight reel was shown and Modano received a standing ovation from the Dallas crowd. He recorded no points, however, and the Stars went on to win the game 4-1.
Simon Gagne Returns to Philadelphia
Simon Gagne returned to Philadelphia on the same night that Modano returned to Dallas. He also received a video package and a standing ovation. Gagne did not score or record an assist that night, but his Tampa Bay Lightning went on to defeat the Flyers 3-2.
Marian Hossa Returns to Pittsburgh
As mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh fans are not a forgiving group of people. Even though Marian Hossa was not a Penguin for very long, when he signed with the Detroit Red Wings just weeks after the Penguins lost to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Final, Penguins fans were angry. Saying things like “When I compared the two teams, I felt like I would have a little better of a chance to win the Cup in Detroit,” didn’t help.
In his return, Hossa was booed every time he touched the puck. That didn’t seem to bother Hossa. He scored Detroit’s second goal and the Red Wings went on to defeat the Penguins 3-0.
So, how will Senators fans respond to Heatley? This clip may give us a clue.