CALGARY — Johnny Gaudreau was given a preview at what his return to Scotiabank Saddledome may very well be like when the Columbus Blue Jackets play the Calgary Flames on Monday (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+, HULU, SN1, SNW, TVAS, SN NOW).
The ahead was booed relentlessly by teammates each time he touched the puck throughout morning skate.
“It was humorous, simply to lighten the temper a little bit bit,” Gaudreau stated. “It was enjoyable. I might barely even stickhandle I used to be laughing so laborious going up and down the ice. They have been all doing it.”
The preview, it seems, was deliberate. Teammates hatched the thought on the bus to the rink, and coach Brad Larsen gave the thumbs-up previous to the skate.
“We might or might not have talked about that beforehand. I am not going to substantiate nor deny that,” Larsen stated, tongue in cheek. “The participant is aware of. He was right here. And your first one again is at all times the toughest irrespective of if it is hostile, not hostile, no matter. You spend a number of time in a single group, and so they went by a number of ups and downs by it too and he was by thick and skinny with them. It at all times has particular which means it doesn’t matter what.”
Gaudreau will play in Calgary for the primary time since he signed a seven-year, $68.25 million contract ($9.75 million common annual worth) with Columbus on July 13. The choice got here in the future after Flames common supervisor Brad Treliving introduced Gaudreau would take a look at free company.
Although Gaudreau admitted the method was aggravating, he stated he would not change something.
“I knew how particular this place was to me,” Gaudreau stated. “Trying again, lots of people simply leap proper in and say they’re doing free company. For me, it was a very very long time determining what I used to be going to do. It was tremendous, tremendous laborious on me the entire month there making an attempt to determine if I used to be going to go or not. However I believe that is what sort of made it particular for me, trying again, is realizing how particular this place was for me and the way a lot I did love enjoying right here and so many good recollections. That is what made it so robust.”
Gaudreau’s former teammates have been understanding, too.
“This complete time he is been right here he is at all times stated he needed to play within the [United States] in some unspecified time in the future,” Flames ahead Mikael Backlund stated. “You have to respect that. Going into free company this summer time … throughout final 12 months it gave the impression of he was extra constructive staying and needed to possibly re-sign. However on the identical time, you at all times knew he needed to return to the U.S. and play there in some unspecified time in the future. When he made the choice, I wasn’t overly shocked.”
The short departure, although, might immediate Calgary followers to jeer the previous longtime face of the franchise. Gaudreau is aware of the Flames trustworthy properly and understands the boos he heard from teammates are more likely to be amplified. He had 609 factors (210 targets, 399 assists) in 602 regular-season video games over 9 seasons with the Flames, together with an NHL career-high 115 factors (40 targets, 75 assists) for the Flames in 2021-22.
“I imply, they are a passionate fan base right here. That is why I cherished enjoying right here,” Gaudreau stated. “I would not count on anything. We had some good instances right here. The best way they supported our crew and supported our gamers, it was superior to be part of. They love their Flames. I am not on the Flames anymore. I am on the opposite crew, so I get it. That is what made it so particular enjoying right here.”
His teammates perceive. And so they’ll have Gaudreau’s again.
“There’s going to be a number of emotion within the constructing,” stated Blue Jackets defenseman Erik Gudbranson, Gaudreau’s Flames teammate final season. “He spent a number of time right here and did a number of nice issues. And he is an amazing hockey participant that was at a crossroads and decided.
“Nevertheless, the response’s going to be tonight, it will be directed towards him, however he’ll have a full lineup behind him supporting him and enjoying laborious for him. He is on a crew and he is acquired the boys behind him for positive.”