The former Buffalo Sabre captain called out fans who booed him every chance they got.
BUFFALO, N.Y, (3/11/2022) - Thursday night saw the return of center Jack Eichel to the KeyBank Center. However, Eichel appeared in a different jersey. The Buffalo Sabres hosted against the former team captain, now with the Vegas Golden Knights and the fans made it clear, he's not welcome there.
On Nov. 4 2021, the Sabres traded Eichel to the Golden Knights after a disagreement over the latter's decision to receive spinal disc replacement surgery. In exchange for Eichel the Sabres got forward Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs and first- and second-round draft picks. Eichel made his Vegas debut on Feb. 16, 2022 and has since recorded seven points on four goals and three assists.
In an interview with Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News, Eichel said he had nothing but respect for the city of Buffalo and it's fans.
"No bitterness. Nope. None whatsoever," Eichel said. "I had a phenomenal time here at Buffalo. Lived out a childhood dream playing my first NHL game. The organization, city was nothing but great to me and my family. So there's no bitterness in me whatsoever."
However, in an article by ESPN's Kristen Shilton, Eichel had different things to say after the Sabres won 3-1 (with Krebs and Tuch each scoring a goal). Every time he touched the puck or went on the ice, the Buffalo crowd booed him loudly. They even booed during a video tribute to him the organization played during the game's first commercial break.
"It's the loudest I've heard this place ever. Really," Eichel said after the game."It only took seven years and me leaving for them to get into the game. It was a nice tribute. There was plenty of people here that were supporting me, and there was plenty of people that were booing me. They must just be booing me because they wish I was still here, I don't know."
Shilton's article also said fans had a range of signs that said "Welcome back Jack!" to, "Thanks for nothing, Eichel."
After Eichel's comments, fans took to Twitter to express their frustration against the former captain.
"Yeah, take a shot at the fans for not getting excited about being out of playoff contention by January every year. I don't miss Eichel at all. He's all yours, Vegas. #Sabres," Tweeted fan SabreScott.
"Imagine taking a cheap shot at the fans of the organization that made you C, gave you $80M and fired multiple coaches at your request," Tweeted Michael lati-LaFave. "Still think management ruined his tenure, but he should have contained his frustration better here."
Even though fans have their grievances against Eichel for his statements, it's still important for fans to remember the organizational disagreement that led to his trade.
Eichel preferred to get disk replacement surgery. However, it had never been done on an NHL player before, so the Sabres instead advocated for rest and rehabilitation. Eichel did not agree with this.
"I've been a bit upset about the way that things have been handled since I've been hurt," Eichel told reporters in May. "I'd be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury. There's been a bit of a disconnect, I think, from the organization and myself. It's been tough at times."
By training camp Eichel's health and relationship with the team hadn't improved. Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams stripped Eichel of his captaincy, after he failed a physical.
A week after the trade, Eichel received his surgery at the Rocky Mountain Spine Clinic in Denver.