John Tavares bids farewell to Islanders fans in Players’ Tribune, explains decision to join Maple Leafs
|Toronto Star 11 Jul 2018 at 13:43|
That’s how John Tavares describes Doug Gilmour’s wraparound overtime goal against the St. Louis Blues during the Maple Leafs magical playoff run in the 1992-93 season in a letter thanking New York Islanders fans and explaining his decision to play for Toronto.
“I’ll never forget it: May 3rd, 1993,” wrote Tavares, who wasn’t even 3 years old at the time but could still recall Bob Cole’s play-by-play of the goal.
“Gilmour — back of the net . . . Andreychuk in front with Borschevsky … and there is Gilmour, waiting, waiting . . . around the net, waiting … HE’S OPEN!! GILMOUR — SOLO JOB . . . AND HE’S WON IT!!”
Tavares, 27, tweeted Wednesday that the last nine seasons for the Islanders “meant more to me than words can describe.” So he wrote 4,228 words in the Players’ Tribune trying to do just that.
“I gave it all that I had . . . and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for how you gave me all that you had in return,” Tavares wrote.
The long-time Islanders captain took fans on his journey on Long Island from the lean early seasons to his favourite on-ice moments including their playoff win over Florida.
He shared the craziness in Montreal when he was picked No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft, and made sure to thank past teammates, coaches and general manager Garth Snow.
“I could really just say I owe Garth everything, and leave it there,” Tavares wrote. “But one specific thing that I always think of, when I look back on what Garth did for me during my time here, is the way that he always made sure I got to be one of the boys.”
Admitting that he probably shouldn’t share in the letter his hockey memories while growing up in Toronto, Tavares described his first trip to the storied Maple Leaf Gardens.
“There’s almost this, like . . . glow to it, that you can’t really explain,” Tavares wrote. “The whole thing felt holy. It was like going to church.”
Tavares wrote that he hadn’t made his decision which team to sign with until after his meetings with various franchises — not mentioned in the letter is Don Cherry’s tweet in late June that he thought Tavares had already made up his mind and found the whole free agent sweepstakes “demeaning.”
“I also know that I got to sit with some of this league’s model franchises, and talk hockey with them, and take pitches from their leadership — all while knowing that, in the end, at this huge life-crossroads of mine, I was making the most informed decision possible for me and my family,” Tavares wrote.
He ends the letter thanking the Islanders fans for everything.
“I want to apologize, from the bottom of my heart, for things not working out — and for the fact that, under my captaincy, we fell short of our ultimate goal,” he wrote. “But I gave it all that I had . . . and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for how you gave me all that you had in return.”