Photo: Christian Petersen (Getty)

Thursday is a very special day in Nassau County. John Tavares returns to the Coliseum (where the Islanders are playing half their home dates, because that Brooklyn thing really isn’t working out) for the first time since leaving the Isles after nine seasons and signing with the Maple Leafs. But it’s not happening under the circumstances most would’ve expected last summer.

The surprising Islanders are in first place in the Metro—Tavares’s exit has not left the team nearly so bereft as predicted—and so, the erstwhile captain comes back to a fan base that isn’t merely heartbroken, though they are that, but is feeling pretty damned feisty about it. Newsday talked to fans in the building last night, and though the game was against Calgary, the crowd was warming up for Tavares.

Power said the only reason that same Tavares jersey hadn’t been defaced was because he “didn’t have any duct tape.”

“We wanted to write ‘trash’ on the back…Traitor is easy because [you add to] the T, and trash is easy. I want to think of something more creative.”

He doesn’t have a ticket for Thursday but is looking to find one, so he can heckle Tavares.

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You get the idea. But in case you want more—trust me, you do—News 12 Long Island put together a delightful little segment featuring Islanders fans sharing what they’d say to Tavares’s face if they had the chance. The piece is charmingly edited, the passion is real, and the accents are top-notch.

News 12 also posted each fan’s individual “Dear John” letter in full.

I think this rules. While obviously free agents can sign anywhere they like, the greater part of fandom is irrational emotion. If a fan tells you they’re still personally wounded by the exit of a player they loved, who are you to tell them otherwise? Just as no one gets to tell you you can’t find this video hilarious.

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These fans don’t represent everyone, of course. Lots of Islanders fans have moved on, and some are even going to cheer him on Thursday. Lou Lamoriello hopes so, anyway:

“He had every right to make the decision that he did to go and to go to free agency, and I respect that,” the Islanders’ president and general manager said. “Let’s put it this way: I hope it’s rethought. I hope it’s the respect he should be getting. I do understand the passion that the fans have… We’re talking about a quality human being who served his years here extremely well, and I hope that’s taken into consideration.”

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It might be. Just, probably not by someone who wears team-colors lipstick.

[News 12 LI]