Phil Kessel will be in Boston on Thursday, and Randy Moss will be in Foxboro on Sunday. They won’t be the first Boston athletes to make their returns, but it’s always a newsworthy event when old friends come to town.
For Kessel, it won’t be the first time, as he made three trips back to Boston last season with the Leafs. After scoring 36 goals with the Bruins in 2008-09, Kessel netted 30 in his first year in a Leafs sweater. None of those came against Boston, however, as the boos rained down from the balcony for just about every Kessel shift.
For Moss, things are a bit different. He was a fan favorite from 2007 all the way through the first few weeks of this season before he was shipped to Minnesota in as shocking a trade football fans have seen in this region. He had his “appreciation” rant in Week 1, but fans (for the most part) never really had a ton of hatred for the star wideout, so his return is a bit different from Kessel’s.
One day, the return of Moss may be looked back on as a major moment in Boston sports, but for now, it’s low on the totem pole.
There was a monumental return just this year, when Manny Ramirez returned in Dodger blue. He received a mixed reaction from the Fenway Park crowd, which hadn’t seen Manny since July of 2008.
Even Manny’s return didn’t compare to that of The Rocket. Roger Clemens returned to Fenway on July 12, 1997, and he turned in a vengeance performance for the ages. Eight innings, four hits, one run … and 16 strikeouts. Looking back, though, Clemens may have been fueled by more than just a thirst for revenge. (Hint: rhymes with “meroids.”)
Another former Red Sox return was one of the more memorable in recent history, with Johnny Damon returning to town as a New York Yankee. Despite being a revered member of the “Idiots” of 2004, Damon was mostly booed. That didn’t stop him from stepping out of the box and tipping his cap to the minority of fans that were applauding him.
In a way, all of those stories pale in comparison to that of Raymond J. Bourque, who hit the Boston ice wearing an Avalanche sweater on March 24, 2001. The crowd cheered Bourque, and despite the defenseman’s two assists, gave him a standing ovation after the Avs beat the Bruins. It was an iconic moment for a Boston icon.
On a lesser level, Joe Thornton‘s return to Boston was a major storyline, as the former B’s captain had been unexpectedly sent to San Jose back in November 2005. Bruins fans couldn’t wait to catch a glimpse of Jumbo Joe on Jan. 10, 2006 — and a glimpse was all they could catch. Thornton was given a game misconduct just 5:13 into the game for hitting Hal Gill from behind. Thornton would make up for it more than three years later, when he hit the Garden ice on Feb. 10, 2009 and scored a goal in a 5-2 Sharks win.
These are just a few of the many famous returns by Boston athletes (Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Drew Bledsoe, everyone at the Red Sox’ ring ceremony in April 2005, and so on). Which one were you anticipating most?