John Tavares returns to the home of the New York Islanders that he so unceremoniously left this offseason, and the faithful should welcome him the way he left them – with 19,000 pajama-wearing fans.
We all know the image posted minutes after announcing to leave the New York Islanders and stringing them along for an extra few days, hours and minutes – a pre-prepared tweet with a creativity and candor that simply doesn’t exist within John Tavares.
That tweet was clearly at the behest of his inner circle, and after reading his bumbling and disjointed Players Tribune letter, was clearly written by someone else.
So, as New York Islanders fans, why not welcome him back when the Toronto Maple Leafs travel to New York February 28th with a mocking gesture that will make it as awkward a return as possible?
Pajamas for Tavares
The team may feel compelled to have some sort of video tribute – maybe not tribute, but at least acknowledgment – but regardless of any team-sponsored video there is no mistaking the message from 19,000 of New York’s loudest and proudest.
To make it that much more awkward, this should start now in the slow media days of the NHL offseason, and build the awareness and momentum before the season even starts.
Let the build-up to the February 28th showdown at Barclays escalate in tension and linger even more awkwardly than it already will.
Give bait for the hockey-starved Toronto media to get hooked on for the next seven months.
Is it passive-aggressive and even somewhat immature? Sure, somewhat, but it’s sports.
Will the game be meaningless, with the Leafs likely on their way to a playoff berth while the Islanders make decisions about the future with a looming trade deadline? In the standings maybe, but not to the Isles fans and players – and not to Tavares.
Puck drop on February 28th will be the loudest Barclays Center has ever been, including concerts.
Fans can make of it what they want, but it gives them an innocuous avenue to vent in their own way and mock their departed captain better than any obscenity screamed from behind an obstructed view can.
Instead of burning those 91 jerseys, get creative and make some pajamas out of them. Or take advantage of discounts on pajamas that the Islanders should offer to anyone trading in a Tavares jersey.
The team can even embrace it as a tongue-in-cheek friendly poke at their former captain while subtly acknowledging their direct role in his departure following nine years of failed efforts to give him a capable GM, consistent coaching or a stable arena.
They should offer season-long 50% discounts on all Islanders pajamas in the team store and a free beverage for any fan wearing it to the Toronto game, served in a cup featuring Mat Barzal, signed off with “The Kid That Won the Calder and Islanders 2017-18 Point Leader”.
And just for fun, why not make the same offer for the April 1st game?
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If for no other reason, who wouldn’t want to bring the comforts of home in their softest PJs directly to the live arena experience? It would also make bringing the kids to the game easier, but this may be one of those games to leave the kids at home.