Claude Julien could have seen it going either way.
The Montreal Canadiens head coach was with the Boston Bruins when defenseman Zdeno Chara dangerously checked Habs winger Max Pacioretty into a stanchion during a 2011 game at the Bell Centre.
Chara's hit made him Public Enemy No. 1 in Montreal, with some even calling for his arrest. But when the 42-year-old returned Tuesday night to play in his 1,500th career game, Canadiens fans gave him a much different welcome.
The moving moment wasn't lost on Julien, who praised Habs fans for showing Chara love while adding a defense of his former player for that 2011 hit.
"I think I've got to give the most credit to our fans," Julien told reporters after the Bruins' 5-4 loss, via Sportsnet's Eric Engels. "I remember when I was on the other side of that incident with Pacioretty. I know I can stand here today on the Montreal side and say there was never any intent to injure that player. That's not his style. It was an unfortunate accident.
"He was not a very well-liked player here in Montreal. But the class of our fans to do what they did tonight in giving him not necessarily a standing ovation but clapping and looking at what he's accomplished in his career, (it) just says a lot about our real fans.
"I was really impressed and I was glad they did that. I know him personally and I think what he got tonight from our fans was well-deserved."
Julien coached Chara for nine-plus seasons in Boston and won a Stanley Cup with the ironman defenseman in 2011, so he certainly knows his history.
For his part, Chara seemed humbled by the fans' kind reaction.
"Obviously that felt really nice," Chara said, via the Bruins' website. "I really appreciate that. It was very classy and it's something that I will definitely remember."
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