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Former Flames Star Gaudreau Ready for Boos In Return To Calgary

Former Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau plays in Calgary for the first time next week since leaving to join the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent last summer. And he’s expecting some boos.



Johnny Gaudreau fully expects the Matthew Tkachuk treatment from Calgary Flames fans. 

His return to the Saddledome is less than a week away, and the longtime Flames fan favourite knows he can’t control what’s to come. 

Gaudreau just has to take it all in, the good and the bad. 

“If I get cheers, that'll be awesome. And if I get booed — and I'm sure I will — that's OK too,” Gaudreau told this week. “It shows how supportive they are to their team. It's a great hockey city and I wouldn't expect anything else.”

Johnny Hockey was part of this hockey city since being chosen in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Draft. He played more than 600 regular-season games for the Calgary Flames, and another 40-plus in the playoffs. 

Ultimately, though, he chose to go elsewhere to continue his career after hitting the unrestricted free agent market last summer. 

He signed a seven-year, $68.25-million contract, leaving money on the table in Calgary, and joined the Columbus Blue Jackets after deciding at the 11th hour he was not going to return to the Flames. 

The 29-year-old, who returns to the Saddledome on Jan. 23, will let his former fans off the hook. He’s a sports fan at heart, too. 

"I'm a big Philadelphia Eagles fan, and if Jalen Hurts were to leave, I'd probably boo him, too,” Gaudreau said. “I get it. Fans are passionate. It's nothing personal. It's part of sports.

“I won't take it personally. The Calgary Flames have a great passionate fan base, a great organization. And I get it. Like any sports team, you don't want to see players leave.”

His reasons for leaving are personal, and perhaps impossible to explain. 

But he’s said repeatedly that it was a nearly impossible decision to make. 

“Like I keep saying, it was tough to leave,” he said. “But people shouldn't mistake that for me not embracing my time in Calgary.

"People there were great to me, and I haven't forgotten.”

Unlike when the Calgary Flames visited his home before a 3-1 loss to the Blue Jackets, where they met his new daughter, Noa, Gaudreau is the one visiting now. The dynamics will be much different. Emotions might be harder to keep in check. 

“It'll be tough on one hand,” Gaudreau said. “I mean, there are a lot of friends and neighbours I had away from the rink that you miss, so it'll be nice to get the chance to play in front of them.

“I’ll say this: It's going to be fun to play against some of my old teammates and have some old friends there to watch. It's going to be a cool experience, a fun experience, and I'm looking forward to it.”

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