The most prominent Islander for the better part of the last decade is leaving the team, and needless to say, fans are emotional about it.
“I was devastated,” Scott Reid of Bellmore said of John Tavares’ signing with the Maple Leafs on Sunday.
Tavares was chosen with the first overall pick by the Islanders in the 2009 draft but left the team to sign a seven-year, $77 million free-agent deal with Toronto.
“I was hoping he would want to stay and be the franchise player that would get them to that next level, especially with the new management and new coach,” James Pollin of Lynbrook said.
Tavares announced his decision in a series of tweets Sunday, including one that thanked Islanders fans, called the decision the “toughest of his life” and said playing for Toronto was a “childhood dream.”
Many fans expressed as much frustration with the process leading up to his departure as the departure itself. “The main reason I was disappointed wasn’t because I didn’t think he was going to go,” Chris Passarelli of Wantagh said. “There was a lot of speculation that he would. It was the fact he told all the Islanders fans he wanted to stay on the Island and he wanted to finish his career here.”
Tavares told reporters in January that “I haven’t thought about being anywhere else but with the Islanders.”
Passarelli added: “It really seemed the way he wrote everything on Twitter that his heart was in Toronto from the start. They really could have gotten a lot for him if they traded him at the deadline.”
Reid agreed. “The biggest thing for me was, ‘Don’t trade me at the deadline,’ ’’ he said. “We could have gotten a lot of pieces back for him and now we’re left with nothing . . . I don’t blame him for going to a team that’s set up to win right now, but it’s the way he left.”
Other fans directed more of their anger at management.
“You hoped he would re-sign, but at the end of the day, it’s on the organization,” said Nico Amantia of Greenlawn. “It came down to not doing enough from the front office down. As much as I hate to see him go, I don’t blame him.”
Merrick’s Bradley Anhouse chose to focus on the good memories. “He helped us win our first playoff series in 23 years and I am just grateful for every minute he spent wearing the blue and orange sweaters,” Anhouse said. “[I wish him] the best of luck in Toronto. While I may be unhappy with the manner he left, I won’t hold it against him to chase his childhood dream.”