"He absolutely loved it . . . He fed off it," said Gomez, who returned to the Garden last night for the first time since his trade to Montreal last June 30. "How many times do you get to go into a building and get booed? Unless you're on the home team and they're booing you; that's a different kind of boo. It's not going to motivate me. It is what it is. It's a little different here."
In his two seasons with the Rangers after he signed a seven-year, $51.5-million contract, the speedy playmaker produced 128 points in 158 games and 16 in 17 playoff games, and was regularly booed in New Jersey.
"My first game back in Jersey [with Montreal], I was talking to [Ken Daneyko] and saying, 'This time, they won't boo me.' Geez, as soon as I touched the ice [the fans booed]. Guys are asking, will I get booed here? I don't know. I got traded. It wasn't like I wanted to go. It wasn't like I asked. I loved my time here. I loved the organization."
He got his answer quickly. Gomez, who entered the game with six goals and 26 assists, was booed on his first shift.
The Alaska native said he was disappointed to not be chosen for the U.S. team that will compete in the Olympics next month. He remains on the alternate list and still is going through the drug-testing protocol but sounds resigned that he won't be there.
"I'm still a U.S. kid and I'll be rooting for them, but that's over with and I can concentrate on what we're doing here," he said. "We're starting to get healthy. We're a different team with [Andrei] Markov, and the way things are bunched in the East, every night is like a playoff game."