It’s a building he’s visited countless times in his life. Heck, he suited up for a combined 226 regular season and playoff games at the Scotiabank Saddledome as a member of the Calgary Flames.
But on Tuesday, for the very first time, Matthew Tkachuk will enter through the side door and turn left towards the visitor’s locker room rather than enter through the main doors and turn right towards the home locker room.
After six seasons with the club, it seems likely that Tkachuk receives a positive greeting from the Saddledome faithful.
On the plus side, Tkachuk was an excellent member of the Flames – and a player who consistently made waves on home ice. His 88 regular season goals since 2016 are the most of any player at the Saddledome, as are his 169 penalty minutes. He also drew 103 regular season penalties on home ice, significantly more than second-place Johnny Gaudreau in that regard.
Tkachuk’s been a big goals and big moments player on home ice. If you look back at some of the most indelible moments in recent Flames history, Tkachuk’s been a big part of them.
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Through these moments, you can get a sense of what made Tkachuk such a great Flame: he was an incredible pest, and relished in riling up the opposition fans and players. Following in the footsteps of players like Willi Plett and Theo Fleury, Tkachuk was (and is) a player completely at ease with being despised by the opposition. He would antagonize the opposition into taking a silly penalty, then help the Flames score on the resulting power play, smiling like a Cheshire cat as he skated past the opposing bench to celebrate with his teammates.
Heck, here’s what he did on Monday night in Edmonton after scoring a goal.
Tkachuk is a black hat who is completely fine with being a black hat if it helps his hockey club win games. There are hardly any players like him remaining in the NHL.
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And heck, his exit from the Flames was handled about as well as it could have been given the circumstances. Rather than hem and haw his way through one more season and walk into free agency, he made up his mind quickly and was able to give the Flames a chance to find value for him in the trade market.
Speaking to the media on Monday after practice, Flames head coach Darryl Sutter mused about the reception Tkachuk will receive on Tuesday evening.
“He’s a good player,” said Sutter. “Our fans acknowledge that.”
When Tuesday’s game begins, Tkachuk will likely receive a warm welcome back to Calgary as fans acknowledge his many contributions to the club. How receptive fans are to him afterwards will probably depend on how much of his usual antics occur during those three periods of hockey.
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