Jack Eichel returned to Buffalo on Thursday for the first time since being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights in November. In his return to the city that he called home for six seasons Eichel was held pointless and came out on the losing end of a 3-1 contest against his former team.
Following the loss, Eichel made sure to get a jab in towards his former team and the Sabres' fanbase. Here's what Eichel said, via ESPN:
"It's the loudest I've heard this place ever. Really. 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."
Eichel was in the Golden Knights' starting lineup and received a healthy rendition of boos from the Buffalo crowd every time he possessed the puck. The Sabres also held a video tribute for the star center during the first television timeout, which drew more boos with some applause mixed in.
When the game wrapped up, a fan even threw an Eichel Sabres jersey on the ice for good measure. Meanwhile, Eichel registered just two shots on goal and finished with a minus-one rating in 17:31 of ice time against his former team.
"I'm pretty happy it's over. Just move on," Eichel added. "It's not an easy game to play in by any means. I'm not going to stand here and say it was. It's frustrating. We wanted to get a win here and we didn't."
There's certainly some bad blood towards Eichel coming from the Sabres fanbase. It was a messy divorce between both sides because they disagreed about what type of neck surgery Eichel should have performed after he suffered a herniated disk in his neck late last season.
Eichel wanted to undergo artificial disk replacement surgery to repair his neck injury, which had never been performed on an NHL player before. The Sabres made it clear that they didn't agree with Eichel's decision and wouldn't allow the star center to get the surgery. The NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement states that teams make the final decision when it comes to treating injuries, so the situation ended with Eichel being stripped of his captaincy by the team, which ultimately opened to the door to him being traded to Vegas prior to the start of the 2021-22 NHL season,
Shortly after Eichel was traded to Vegas, he received the fusion surgery that he had wanted for months. The procedure kept the 25-year-old star off the ice until last month, when Eichel made his Golden Knights debut.
Eichel played six seasons in Buffalo and registered 355 points during that time after being selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft by the franchise. Since returning to the ice last month, the star center has accumulated seven points (three goals and four assists) for the Golden Knights.