The Bell Centre is know, around the NHL, as one of the most intimidating buildings to play in as a visitor, at least based on the annual NHLPA poll. Fans are often loud and all over you as the opponent or an underperforming referee, while erupting for their team at any chance that they get.
It’s not unusual for fans at the Bell Centre to boo opposing players. It often happens to the best players on the opposing team, with former players or players that did the Canadiens wrong taken to another level. On Thursday night in Montreal, fans will have a chance to see a young player for whom they have displayed tons of patience for, one they took under their wing as a young kid, one who… turned his back on them by signing an offer-sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes! Way to thank Montreal fans for their support.
You see, sometimes players get booed for reasons out of their control: they play for the wrong team. In this case, KK was playing for the right team. The organisation stuck their neck out for him by drafting him sooner than he should have been, and defending his selection. They kept him in Montreal (with NHL salary) to have better control on his development, to see him progress the right way. Teammates supported him. Fans supported him, defended him against those claiming that Filip Zadina or Brady Tkachuk should have been selected by the Habs.
At first opportunity, Kotkaniemi turned his back on them without thinking twice. What’s coming is self-inflicted. His decision was voluntary. There are different schools of thoughts in this and both can be defended, and none is right or wrong. While some feel like you don’t turn down a pay increase, even if for one year, of doubling the amount offered to you. Others feel like it is a small price to pay short term by getting paid your worth on a bridge deal, then get the big bucks, as it matches your contribution to the team.
Nonetheless, he made his choice. While I am convinced that both the Canes’ ownership and Kotkaniemi thought that the Canadiens would match the offer, the fact is that they did not and he’s gone. For fans, they won’t forget that. They won’t forget that he CHOSE to sign that offer-sheet and was willing to leave so soon.
Well KK, you’ve made your own bed so you’ll have to sleep in it. While it was your right to follow the short term money, it is also true that it’s the fans’ rights to not like your decision and to let you know loud and clear how they feel. You will feel what it’s like to have 21,000 passionate fans over your back at the Bell Centre. Hope the money was worth it, kid. Habs’ fans have a lot of frustration to let out early on this season…