There once was a New York Islanders first-round draft pick turned captain who returned to his former home arena, and as you may recall, he didn't receive the warmest of welcomes. No one expects Bo Horvat to receive a tenth of the vitriol John Tavares was "welcomed" with back in February 2019 at the Nassau Coliseum, but despite the very different circumstances by which he left, Horvat's not certain how he will be received at Rogers Arena for his return on Wednesday night.
Unlike Tavares, who left as a free agent after repeatedly declaring that he wanted to remain on Long Island, Horvat was traded to the Islanders after he couldn't work out a long-term extension with the Canucks. In return, Vancouver received Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and the Islanders' 2023 first-round pick. Days after being traded, Horvat signed an eight-year, $68M extension to stay on Long Island long-term.
While there was little animosity toward Horvat after the trade, he slipped when he made an off-the-cuff remark during a post-game interview when asked about the UBS Arena atmosphere, saying it was “a lot better than Vancouver, I can tell you that for free.”
The 28-year-old All-Star quickly apologized at his first opportunity. "I didn't mean any disrespect to the fans of Vancouver or my teammates or the city of Vancouver at all. It wasn't directed at them," he said. "The fans were all excited and I was excited to be in a playoff push. It was just one of those things where my emotions got the best of me."
As for his former teammates, who are off to a great start with an 11-3-1 record, they want the welcome to be a warm and gracious one. “I think the reaction should be really good," said Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes. "People should welcome him and celebrate him on his return. He put in nine really good years here and was really solid and never complained. He was a great leader.
“First of all, I hope they don’t boo him," Elias Pettersson said. "He gave it his all in his nine years he played here. He has always been a good teammate. It sucks that he’s not playing with us anymore. He’s always helped me.
Perhaps that Canucks winning, even if Beauvillier is off to a so-so start, helps them move on from whatever resentment they feel towards Horvat for not working out a contract extension and his one regretful remark. "I like to think I did a lot of good, not only in the organization but in the community, Horvat reflected in Newsday. " tried to wear the Canucks’ sweater with a lot of pride and passion, and I thought I did a good job of that every year."