John Tavares signed a 7-year $77 million contract over the summer with the Toronto Maple Leafs, leaving the New York Islanders, the only organization he ever knew, for his favorite team growing up as a kid.
Islanders fans hand an opportunity to show their appreciation for JT’s nine years on Long Island on Thursday. Instead, they burned his jersey at a tailgate, threw snakes at him during warmups, booed him during the entirety of the team’s tribute video, and chanted awful things such as Asshole, We Don’t Need You, and You’re A Liar. The Leafs were routed in Tavares’ homecoming game 6-1.
Saturday night, the Leafs returned home to Scotiabank Arena. In an emotional moment, fans gave Tavares a loud standing ovation after he was announced during starting lineups.
Tavares, clearly humbled by the gesture, raised his stick in the air to salute the crowd. Once that wasn’t enough, Tavares took off his helmet so fans could see the appreciation on his face.
“It was a pretty special moment,” Tavares said according to TSN’s Mark Masters. “To be recognized like that & get the support from the city & the fans shows you why it’s special to be a Maple Leaf. Definitely got some goosebumps and a nice little boost there.”
"It was a pretty special moment, certainly, to be recognized like that. To get the support from the city and the fans shows you why it's special to be a Maple Leaf."@91Tavares on the ovation before tonight's game. #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/1HFkB5PEjt
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 3, 2019
According to reports, Mike Babcock changed the starting lineup so Tavares could be announced last.
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Four minutes and twenty seconds into the game, Tavares scored the first goal to put the Leafs up 1-0. It was a fitting start.
After the game, Babcock praised the ovation from Leafs fans.
“It was great, but I also thought the people in New York showed the passion they have for John the other night too,” Babcock said. “When you get booed on the road, you must be something special. That’s the way I look at that.
“Our fans obviously wanted to support him in here tonight,” Babcock continued. “He’s an important part of our team, he made a great decision for himself and for his family. To me, that’s how you make decisions anyway. We’re thrilled to have him.”
Tavares has 37 goals in 65 games so far this season for the Leafs.
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