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John Tavares on leaving Islanders: ‘Hard decision because of how special it was’

I’m not crying you’re crying. Okay no one is crying. This is just sports.

New York Islanders Training Session
Lotta memories there.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Judging by reactions in comments and on Twitter, New York Islanders fans are in no mood to hear John Tavares wax about what his time on Long Island meant to him, or how hard it was for him to leave the organization that drafted him and his adopted home for the organization that fuels the dreams and mania of his boyhood home.

But, for history’s sake, and because maybe some will better be able to digest these words once time has passed, here is most of what he said during his press conference announcing his signing in Toronto:

“That place means a lot to me. Um {pause} Everything I’ve been through there, the impact people had on me. The things we went through as a group, the teammates I’ve been through there. ... You know, I, it was such a hard decision because just really how special it was. It’s a great organization. A tremendous fanbase. Tremendously loyal. Tremendously passionate. You know, you ever been to a game with Islander fans, it’s something really unique.

I think my message is — I made some statements on Twitter today — and I think I tried to put some things that really came from the heart. I think just what I want to reiterate is really ‘thank you.’ Thank you for the impact you made on me.

I don’t know if words could describe how much I appreciated my time there, the impact everyone made on me. I think the organization’s in great hands. There’s some great people there. Obviously some new faces that are going to do some great things, I believe, and there’s some great talent there. You got some great pieces, starting with the kid who won the Calder Trophy this year. I think the future’s bright there.

I know it’s been a bittersweet day. I’ve been connected to so many people in that organization. I think the future’s bright there. I think that’s the biggest thing. I know it’s a bittersweet day and tough at times for met the least few days, but I really believe they’ve got a great future ahead of them.”

Or you can watch video here, among other places:

He also said the decision “tore [him] apart inside,” and spoke with Kyle Okposo and Cal Clutterbuck among others (including his fiance of course) to sound out what move would be best.

Later, on a conference call mainly for Islanders reporters, Tavares was even more heartfelt:

I’m of two minds. On one hand, I get it, all of it.

For a guy who had people whispering in his ear from even before he was drafted that he should bail on Long Island, refuse to report to the Islanders, and look for the first opportunity to jump away, he put in his time. He tried to see the project through despite years of turmoil, unrest, and forces from outside and inside the organization trying to destroy it all.

On the other hand, it still sucks. Terribly. None of the pitches the five teams made this week could have been news to him, so a little speedier decision would have been helpful to everyone who suffered through it from the outside. (Yes, that’s totally fan-selfish, but this is sports. Fans pay the money; athletes reap it. Athletes can use their CBA rights; fans can piss and moan.) Considering the Islanders afforded him all the time and the world — too much time, probably — over the past year to reach this point, it burns that the former Islanders captain used every last minute.

More to the point of regret though, how cool would it have been for him to go through all that and truly see this project through? To ride the transition and pass the torch to Mathew Barzal while Lou Lamoriello and this spring’s Stanley Cup winning coach guided them to the promised land?