Connect with us

Calgary Flames

How Will Flames Fans React To Tkachuk Return?

Former Calgary Flames star Matthew Tkachuk returns to the Saddledome for the first time as an opponent onTuesday as the Flames take on the Florida Panthers.



Matthew Tkachuk re-acclimated himself in the province with a two-point game against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. More of a Battle in Alberta as opposed to the Battles of Alberta he experienced in six seasons with the Calgary Flames. 

The biggest question is how he’ll be received. 

You can bet he’ll be celebrated with a scoreboard video tribute at some point. Odds are good a few of his former teammates will give him a little stick tap on the boards. 

Really, who could blame him for leaving?

The minus-20-something windchill greeting Tkachuk for Tuesday’s homecoming should remind all of Calgary why the young American hockey player wanted to pack his stuff and head to South Florida, trading his Sorels for sandals. 

It’s a different life down there. 

And the hockey is still pretty good. 

His Florida Panthers come in with a 10-8-4 record after dropping two straight in extra time. They’re not the same squad that featured Jonathan Huberdeau’s slick passing and a run and gun mentality most nights. With Paul Maurice at the helm and the gritty Tkachuk in the fabric of the game with regularity, the Panthers are a little more west coast than the old west palm. 

Players in Calgary don’t separate the opponent his is on the ice from the person he was as a teammate. Mikael Backlund watched him grow up here, skating his way right onto the opening day roster as a rookie and never looking back until helping to orchestrate the blockbuster NHL trade between his Flames and desired Florida Panthers.

“He came here a very young player,” said the Calgary Flames veteran. “He’s a unique player and he scored goals for this organization for, how many years? A lot of years.

“Just a special, talented player.”

The person?

 “He did a great job, too, in the community, working with the children’s hospital and other charities, and was also a great leader for the team," added Backlund.

“Great player and person. That’s how he left this team.”

When the Flames were in Florida less than two weeks ago, much was made about Huberdeau and MacKenzie returning to their former NHL home. For Tkachuk it was more about facing his former team and teammates for the first time. 

Now he’s the one on a homecoming, after six years that saw him collect 152 goals and 382 points with the team that drafted him. 

He made fans for life for his tenacious play, supreme offensive talent, and generous approach to charitable work in the community. 

“He was a big part of it here and obviously did a lot of work with the (Alberta) Children’s Hospital,” said Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin. “I know he loved Calgary. 

“He was a person who introduced me to the city when I first got here and made me comfortable in the organization.

“Matthew was here for a long time and was a great teammate to have. I’ve known Chucky since I was seven or eight years old, so it’ll be cool for him to come back to the building and playing in front of the crowd again.”

This time from the visitors’ side. 

Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t seem to think that detail deter the Saddledome from giving him a positive ovation.  

“He’s a good player,” Sutter said. “Our fans always acknowledge that.”

After the whistles, at least. 

We’ll see if any of the on-ice antics that made him so popular here change that now that he’s wearing a different jersey. 

Get Calgary Hockey Now in your inbox

Sign up to get the best Calgary Flames news, opinion and analysis sent directly to your inbox every day.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.