Jack Eichel Shades Sabres Fans over Boos After Return to Buffalo with Golden Knights

Erin WalshMarch 11, 2022

Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (9) carries the puck past Buffalo Sabres right wing Alex Tuch (89) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 10, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes

Former Sabres star Jack Eichel returned to Buffalo on Thursday for the first time since being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights, and he was booed relentlessly by fans of the home team every time he touched the puck. 

Jesse Granger @JesseGranger_

Loud boos every time Eichel touches the puck. <a href="https://t.co/CJ41ap3fN2">pic.twitter.com/CJ41ap3fN2</a>

While speaking with reporters after the game, a 3-1 loss for the Golden Knights, Eichel didn't hold back in sharing his thoughts about the crowd booing him. 

"That's the loudest I've heard this place, ever," Eichel said. "It only took 7 years and me leaving for them to get into it. ... They must just be booing me because they wish I was still here, I don't know. It is what it is. I mean, I'm not the first player to deal with it."

Before Thursday's game, Eichel admitted to reporters his departure from the Sabres wasn't pretty. However, he hoped fans would appreciate the effort he made both on and off the ice for the six seasons he was in Buffalo:

β€œI think about my time in Buffalo, it obviously ended a little messy. But I hope (fans) can look past some of the things that happened maybe in the last year and think about the previous five-and-a-half, six years that I was there, and everything that I tried to do for the community, everything that I feel like I put forth on the ice as a hockey player, and know I just tried to do as much as I could for the city.”

Fans definitely showed a lack of appreciation for their former captain Thursday night. But as Eichel noted, he's not the first player to receive boos in a return to his former home. Take Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons, for example. He was also booed heavily in his return to Philadelphia on Thursday night even though he didn't take the court. 

Sportsnet @Sportsnet

Following a tribute video, <a href="https://twitter.com/BuffaloSabres?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BuffaloSabres</a> fans welcome back Jack Eichel to KeyBank Center with a mix of boos and cheers. <a href="https://t.co/DGvsdj4Czh">pic.twitter.com/DGvsdj4Czh</a>

The Sabres traded Eichel to the Golden Knights in November amid a dispute on how to handle the herniated disk in his neck. Buffalo wanted him to have neck fusion surgery to repair the issue, while his doctor recommended artificial disk replacement surgery. 

Before Eichel underwent the procedure, an artificial disk replacement surgery had never been performed on an NHL player. 

The Sabres drafted Eichel second overall in 2015 with the hopes that he would one day help them contend for a Stanley Cup. That plan didn't work out, as the franchise never made the postseason during his tenure. 

Despite the lack of success, Eichel was one of the most dominant offensive players in the NHL during his time in Buffalo, tallying 139 goals and 216 assists (355 points) in 375 games. He's just now beginning to reassert his dominance in Las Vegas. 

In 11 games with the Golden Knights, Eichel has three goals and four assists for seven points. As he continues to get more comfortable in the desert, his numbers should only improve moving forward. 

The Golden Knights are third in the Pacific Division with a 32-23-4 record. They have made the playoffs in each of their first four NHL seasons and hope to do so again this year with Eichel on board.