VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Bo Horvat doesn’t know what will await him when he takes the ice on Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.
It will be the first game back in Vancouver for the former Canucks captain who was dealt to the Islanders in January and lobbed a dart toward his old organization in April when he said to MSG Networks of his new digs, “It’s a lot better than Vancouver, I’ll tell you that for free.”
Horvat subsequently apologized for those comments and they were on his mind again in the run-up to Wednesday’s game, when he was asked what sort of reception he expected upon his return.
“I have no idea, to be honest with you,” Horvat said. “I think some of [the fans] were pretty upset, obviously, with what I said last year. The fans took it more personal than I wanted them to take it, obviously.
“Obviously it wasn’t directed at them. Was just more upset with how everything went down last year. Obviously I couldn’t be happier to be here, but just the way everything went down beforehand with all the media stuff and how myself and my family were treated, it definitely stung a little bit. Something I didn’t forget.
“I said what I said. I’m just excited to get back there. I started my career in Vancouver, love the city, the people and the fans when I was playing there. Excited to get back there and play again.”
Left off the list of people Horvat loves would be Canucks’ management, which he not-so-subtly criticized for their handling of his contract negotiation.
Horvat was in line for a contract extension with his deal expiring at the conclusion of last season.
Vancouver instead gave J.T. Miller a new deal, making it all but impossible to re-sign Horvat under the salary cap and setting off a firestorm that culminated in trading the center to the Islanders.
“When you’re told one thing and the opposite happens and stuff like that, a lot of stuff that went on that obviously doesn’t sit well,” Horvat said. “But it led me to here. And I couldn’t be happier to be here. My family loves it here and I love it here. The organization has treated me amazingly and same with my family.”
Though Horvat’s scoring pace has recovered after a slow start with the Islanders last year, the team’s results on the ice have probably not been what he envisioned.
The Islanders enter Wednesday’s match below .500 after a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Oilers on Monday night, their fifth straight defeat.
At the time he was dealt, Horvat was going from a team in the throes of its own disaster, with management’s dysfunction on display during the drawn-out firing of Bruce Boudreau prior to the trade, to one in a playoff race.
The Islanders still have a long way to go before things get as bad as they were in Vancouver last year. But it is the Canucks, 11-3-1 and second in the Western Conference, whose playoff prospects look good right now while the Islanders languish.
“They do have a great team,” Horvat said. “They’re playing really well right now. Obviously [Thatcher Demko’s] been playing unbelievable, too, I’ve always thought of him as a heck of a goaltender. They’re off to a great start.
“They’ve added some great pieces. They obviously have [defenseman Quinn Hughes] and [center Elias Pettersson] and [center Brock Boeser] is having a really good year so far. It’s nice to see those guys doing well.”
It might be nicer, though, if his own team was doing so well.