One of the most surprising trades in recent memory was when the Toronto Maple Leafs dealt captain Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators in a nine-player trade last month. The 30-year-old joined the Maple Leafs back in 2010 via a trade with Calgary and had become a polarizing figure in Toronto. Some fans cheered him on, but others saw him as wooden and non-captain material. The mixed feelings made it unpredictable to guess how fans would react to his return.
During his first return to Toronto last night, the Maple Leafs showed a video tribute of Phaneuf and the usually ruthless Maple Leafs fans surprisingly gave him a standing ovation. Phaneuf himself teared up on the Senators bench.
Phaneuf said after the game the moment was a night he’ll always remember.
“That was some good closure,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun. “I played it off this morning. I was focused. I wanted it to be about our team, it was a big game, we needed the points and I played it off a little bit. When they stood for me, for as long as I was here, it was very classy and I can’t thank them enough. It’s a night I’ll remember forever. It was a good way to go out.”
So while some fans hold negative feelings towards Phaneuf for his time with the Leafs, it’s good to see them respect his tenure and give him a memorable send-off.