Most players, whatever the sport, when they have spent a significant amount of time with a team and then leaves either by trade or as a free agent, the player will take time to say ‘Thank You’ to the fans who stood by him in the best of times and the worst of times. Such is the case with John Tavares. One of the big prizes of free agency this off-season in the National Hockey League. Tavares, 27, left the New York Islanders the team that drafted him in 2009 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
On the first day of free agency, July 1st, Tavares signed a seven-year $77 million contract. A native of Mississauga a Toronto suburb Tavares had that dream to play for his hometown team. Now he will get the chance. This past week, Tavares penned a 4,227-word essay that was printed in the publications The Players Tribune.
In that essay, Tavares started in thanking the Islander fans and how well he was treated by the fans ever since he was their first-round pick in 2009. He played 669 games in orange and blue collecting 272 goals and 349 assists for 661 points. His teams made the Stanley Cup Playoffs three times when he was there having memorable playoff series with Pittsburgh and Washington. In 2016 they defeated Florida in the first round before losing to Tampa Bay. Tavares talked about his relationship with then General Manager Garth Snow. The man who drafted him from the Ontario Hockey League London Knights. This past off-season Snow was fired along with head coach Doug Weight when Lou Lamoriello, who came from Toronto after he was let go by the Leafs to revive the struggling franchise.
In the essay, Tavares always had faith in Snow and what he was doing to get the franchise back to the glory days of the 1980’s when it won four consecutive Stanley Cups. He added that the franchise is in good hands on the ice with players such as Mat Barzal who won the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year as well as a young forward by the name of Anders Lee. He also indicated that the Islanders are a team in transition after they were, for the most part, evicted from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after three seasons and are awaiting their new arena in the parking lots at Belmont Park. Until the arena is completed the team will play some games in Brooklyn as well as their old home Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale.
He met with Lamoriello and new head coach Barry Trotz who joined the team after winning the Stanley Cup this past season with the Washington Capitals. After the meeting, Tavares said in the essay he was still pretty torn on whether he would stay with the Isles or take the leap of faith with the Leafs. There were as many as four other teams that met with Tavares and his agent although it was not brought up in the essay.
In the final part of the essay, Tavares explained his reasons for joining the Leafs. He said it was a childhood dream to play for them. He added he would always remember his time spent on the Island and wished the fans and the team well in the future. Tavares comes to a team loaded with young talent in players like Austen Matthews and Mitch Marner as well as veterans like Patrick Marleau who found a second wind in Toronto. As well as the leadership led by Brendan Shanahan and head coach Mike Babcock both proven Stanley Cup winners one as a player another as a coach.
The Maple Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967 the last year of the ‘original six’ led by Terry Sawchuk, Dave Keon, Johnny Bower, and George Armstrong. The pressure of playing in Toronto is gigantic as it is in any Canadian city. However, this is a man who is returning home to help bring hockey’s biggest prize in tow and is playing in the country’s largest city and media market. The final page of John Tavares time as an Islander is now over. A new page is now being penned the same number 91 this one in blue and white.