Wayne Simmonds

Wayne Simmonds receives thunderous ovation from Flyers fans ... then gets his boos

Wayne Simmonds receives thunderous ovation from Flyers fans ... then gets his boos

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).

"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:

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Flyers vs. Devils: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Devils: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

The Flyers have not started 2-0-0 in a season since 2011-12, when they last won a playoff series.

They can change that Wednesday night when they host Wayne Simmonds and the Devils (0-1-1) in the first game at the Wells Fargo Center for the 2019-20 season.

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 7:30 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBCSN for game broadcast; NBCSP for Pregame Live and Postgame Live.
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers lost six of their seven preseason games, including a defeat to Lausanne HC of the National League. Midway through the exhibition slate, head coach Alain Vigneault said he couldn't remember any of his preseason records in 17 years of NHL head coaching.

And he was making a good point. He wasn't too worried about the Flyers, given this is Year 1 under Vigneault and a team grasping a new system can take time.

Even though it was just one game, the Flyers appeared like they had things down in the 4-3 season-opening win over the Blackhawks. After looking like they were behind the play so often early in games during 2018-19, the Flyers controlled pace and sustained possession last Friday. They weren't one and done when they entered the offensive zone and didn't find themselves having to play a ton of defense in their own zone.

"It took us a while, it took us almost the whole preseason," Jakub Voracek said. "But I think we play the system well, we play pretty good defensively. We just couldn’t find a way to score the goals in the preseason, but we did in the season opener. We’re very excited about this year and the years coming up."

• For the first time since being traded in February, Simmonds will return to the Wells Fargo Center. He is now a visiting player. Expect a loud ovation from the fans and a video tribute from the Flyers.

"It's going to be weird," Voracek said. "First time in about eight years to see him against me. I'm sure we're going to get something going."

A little trash-talking between the two?

"Possible," Voracek said with a smile. "We did on a daily basis when we were teammates, so I'm sure it's going to happen when he's on the other team."

• Travis Konecny has six goals in 13 career games vs. the Devils, his most goals against any opponent.

He's coming off a two-goal, three-point season opener, and a fast start could be vital to the Flyers' fortunes this season (see story).

• Jack Hughes, the 2019 No. 1 overall pick, is scoreless through his first two games. Will the dizzying playmaker get his first NHL point against the Flyers? Hughes could give Simmonds a memorable return as the 18-year-old is expected to center the former Flyer and Blake Coleman.

Quotable

Any time you play that first game of the season at home, there's a different feel to it. We feel like we have something to prove. The fans are going to be ready to go. Every season opener, they've been great.

- Claude Giroux

Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Kevin Hayes-Jakub Voracek
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Carsen Twarynski
Connor Bunnaman-Michael Raffl-Tyler Pitlick

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim-Matt Niskanen
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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Why Shayne Gostisbehere is saying sorry to Wayne Simmonds

Why Shayne Gostisbehere is saying sorry to Wayne Simmonds

Wayne Simmonds knows Philly all too well.

The two had become synonymous during Simmonds' eight years in Philadelphia.

On Oct. 9, the Flyers' 2019-20 home opener, Simmonds will play in the Wells Fargo Center for the first time as a visitor since being traded at last season's deadline.

He returns as a New Jersey Devil. And he wants Philly to be Philly.

Shayne Gostisbehere smiled at the sheer thought of this city booing Simmonds.

I think Simmer knew that they're not going to boo him, he was so beloved here. We still love him, I'll be cheering him on, I definitely won't be booing him," Gostisbehere said last month in a sit-down interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Derek Souders. "When he comes back, it's definitely going to strike some people hard. He was such a good guy, such a good guy for the community, too. His dealings with Snider Hockey, he did so much for the community. On the ice, he gave it all. He was a true Flyer — I think he could have played back in the day, for sure. I don't think you'll hear too many boos. Sorry to say that, Simmer.

Oct. 9 will be an emotional night for Simmonds and Flyers fans. As tough as Simmonds is, he was emotional following the Feb. 23 Stadium Series game at Lincoln Financial Field, what turned out to be his final time wearing a Flyers jersey.

And he clearly has Oct. 9 circled on his calendar.

Simmonds signed with the Devils in the offseason on a one-year deal and will play the Flyers four times in 2019-20. New-look New Jersey is looking to jump back into contention just like the Flyers. The matchups should be intense … but booing Simmonds?

Not happening.

For more from Gostisbehere on last season's trade rumors that lingered into the offseason, his expectations and the team's makeup, watch the "Break the Ice" video above.

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