Wayne Simmonds was traded to the Flyers in June 2011.
He was 22 years old and had scored 39 career goals. He was a subplot as the Flyers sent captain Mike Richards to the Kings.
Simmonds had no idea what to expect with Philadelphia.
"I was just coming in here trying to prove myself as a good hockey player," he said Wednesday night.
The city ended up falling in love with a power forward that personified its toughness and loyalty — oh, and who could score some goals.
Eight years following the trade, Simmonds is considered synonymous with Philly. He returned home Wednesday night as a visiting player, for the first time since being dealt by the Flyers at last season's trade deadline.
The fans at the Wells Fargo Center gave Simmonds a roaring ovation during the first period ... and then he got his boos (which he wanted).
Philly gives Wayne Simmonds a standing ovation 😭 pic.twitter.com/CqYVF6tDFJ— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 9, 2019
Wayne Simmonds and Philadelphia. pic.twitter.com/7YkEHmq18O— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) October 9, 2019
"I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams that they would take to me like they did," Simmonds said before the game. "Obviously it's an honor."
Following back-to-back 30-plus-goal seasons, Simmonds' body went through hell in 2017-18. His production dipped and Simmonds went into 2018-19 — the final year of what turned out to be a bargain contract — without a new deal. The struggling Flyers fired general manager Ron Hextall in late November and hired Chuck Fletcher as his replacement in early December.
At that point, holding on to Simmonds, who turned 31 this summer, seemed unlikely for a team with new management and shifting its focus to 2019-20.
He was traded to the Predators in February and signed by the Devils to a one-year, $5 million deal on July 1.
Most of the dealings we had were with Hexy and they didn't go too well. So when Chuck came in, I think it was a little too far along at that point. I think they were kind of looking to recoup [some assets]. Obviously, I was that player — I don't know how to say it — that they didn’t want me ... but I’m ready to play hockey this year.
I think I deserved a little bit better. I put so much time and sweat and tears into this organization. I thought I did everything I could possibly to at least get a little bit of an extension. But it is a business at the same time. It all just sucks to hear that you’re obviously not thought of how you think you’re thought of.
I feel great now, to be honest. I’m skating a million times better than I was last year. Doctors told me last year that it would take me six months. It took me six months to heal, not prepare myself for a hockey season. I was in a little bit of a different state mentally and physically but now I’m feeling good.
Here are more sights and scenes from Simmonds' return:
Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux’s baby boy Gavin have the same birthday: Aug. 26. pic.twitter.com/FovO7KV4Ca— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) October 9, 2019
Fans watching Wayne Simmonds in a Devils jersey. pic.twitter.com/4OEFs8JNJ6— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) October 9, 2019
Nice tribute for Wayne Simmonds in Philly 👏 pic.twitter.com/E3UEGzc6CC— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 9, 2019
Wayne Simmonds returning tonight catching up with Flyers staff— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) October 9, 2019
Wayne to Flyers fans
“Give me a couple of boos. It's only right, especially in Philadelphia. The fan base is just so passionate. To me, it would kind of be an honor to be booed. It's kind of crazy to say”#Flyers pic.twitter.com/5sH2cDEL2O
"Him and his wife Crystal took care of me really well."— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) October 9, 2019
"There was no bulls--t around him."
"I was like, 'F---, thanks, bro.'"
I asked #Flyers players for their best Wayne Simmonds memories.
The stories really opened my eyes. https://t.co/tEc1KVBQUY
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