Welcome to New Jersey, Wayne Simmonds.
Sure, he’s been on the team since he signed a one year contract on July 1st. Sure, he’s already gone through training camp, the preseason, and the first two (unfortunately forgettable) games of the 2019-2020 season. But when the Wayne Train rolls back into his old home to take on the Philadelphia Flyers, it will be his first time in enemy territory wearing the black and red. In my mind, this is when he will officially become a New Jersey Devil.
When Simmonds signed his one year deal I immediately had mixed reactions. If you had asked me at any point over the past few years who my least favorite NHL player is, I probably would have said Simmonds. I would have considered saying Sidney Crosby, but still would have ultimately chosen Simmonds. The realization that I have to now root for him on the team I’ve loved my whole life, was something I never expected.
All the storylines going in tonight’s game will be focused on what kind of homecoming Simmonds will receive. He initially said he wanted Flyers fans to boo him, now he and his new teammates are hoping for a classier standing ovation. If there’s one thing Philadelphia Flyers fans are not, it’s classy. Still, I expect them to show some love to the Wayne Train and give a mixture of both.
Seeing Wayne Simmonds hop among rivals is something that proves this isn’t your grandfather’s NHL. In the olden days, before Ted Lindsay led the fight to create a players’ union, you would have never seen a player like Simmonds bounce from fierce rival to fierce rival. Even though times have changed, seeing such a polarizing player like the Wayne Train change locales took a little getting used to.
It is important to remember that Simmonds didn’t leave Philly by choice, he was traded. As an unrestricted free agent this past offseason, he took his talents where he thought he would fit in best. That team happened to be our New Jersey Devils. It may seem like odd matrimony, but now that’s he on our side, we all better root for him.
Simmonds isn’t some undercover agent from Philadelphia trying to hurt our team from within, he’s a hockey player. And not just any hockey player, but a hockey player with another 20 who wear the same red and black uniform every night, taking the ice towards one goal. And that’s a goal the fans like us in the stands share.
So with that, welcome to New Jersey, Wayne Simmonds. Go Devils!