When the vitriol finally fell, it was not a surprise.
"Of course, I do not expect it to be very welcoming when I get back," said Tavares just hours before his return to the Coliseum on Thursday night, his first game as a nasty member. Maple Leafs. "I'm just going to go and play the best I can and worry about what I can control."
Supporters had already begun to pile up on the parking lot at the beginning of the afternoon, with Tavares jerseys being treated. . . with not the greatest respect. The former captain left this summer to sign a free agent contract with his hometown team in Toronto. This $ 77 million, seven-year contract represents a betrayal for many Islanders fans who have been supporting it since the franchise took it with No. 1 overall pick in 2009.
"As I said, it's probably the most difficult decisions I've had in my life," Tavares said. "Obviously, it took me a long time because of the difficulty. I did not know what I wanted to do before making my decision. "
In most situations where a free agent is imminent and on hold, the threat of a trade looms without talks being on the agenda. But the majority owner of the Islanders, Scott Malkin, has ordered not to trade Tavares. He was able to leave the club on July 1, the club got nothing in return.
After so many months to say that he wanted to stay with the Islanders, it was a hard pill to swallow for fans.
"Of course, there are a lot of emotions going through you," Tavares said. "At the same time, I can only control what I can control. I have tried to be open and honest with my decision. In the end, that's what it is. I'm just playing hockey and trying to help the Maple Leafs. "