For some reason, Jake Voracek was a lightning rod for Flyers’ fans emotions.
Maybe because he was a more natural playmaker than goal scorer, or because expectations were so high after the Flyers acquired him from Columbus in the Jeff Carter trade back in 2011, he suffered the wrath of the peanut gallery.
Oh, and the Flyers missing the playoffs five of the last nine seasons probably didn’t help.
Whatever the origin, Voracek heard “shoot the puck!’’ from the stands about, in his estimate, 17 times a game.
Using words like “bittersweet’’ to describe his trade back to Columbus (for Cam Atkinson) on Saturday and “love-hate’’ to depict his relationship with Philly followers, Voracek gave the impression it was probably not a bad thing to head back to Ohio.
“Obviously it’s a bittersweet moment from this perspective,’’ he said during a media Zoom call. “Something new brings something new. I’m excited about that. I know a lot of people in Columbus still.’’
What about his relationship with the Flyers fans, which was testy at times?
“I read all the stuff on the Internet over the last two or three weeks,’’ Voracek said with a smile. “There was a lot of hate. We always had a kind of love-hate relationship I would say with the fans. But they’re passionate. It was a pleasure to play for them. They would yell ‘shoot the puck’ about 17 times a game. I was passionate, they were passionate. For 10 years, they gave me the support I needed to be a better hockey player. Time to move on.’’
Voracek has three years remaining on his contract, which pays him $8.25 million per year. The Blue Jackets are picking up the entire salary cap hit.
“It’s a business,’’ he said. “No hard feelings. I know how it works. There are no hard feelings between me and (Flyers GM) Chuck Fletcher. I have a lot of friends and a lot of memories from Philly.’’
Until the 2019-20 season, the Flyers hadn’t won a playoff series since 2012.
“Obviously when you’re somewhere for 10 years, with ‘G’ (Claude Giroux) and ‘Coots’ (Sean Couturier), you expect to win,’’ Voracek said. “We didn’t do it. Last year was a really hard season, basically being five months stuck in a bubble without family and all the restrictions.’’
Voracek managed just nine goals in the 56-game season.
“The season didn’t go well as we planned,’’ he said. “Sometimes that happens. Ten years is a long time. Sorry it had to go this way. I had a feeling something was going to pop up for them, that I’m going to get traded. I was open to it. Down the road, it’s a business.’’
The Czech star stands third on the Flyers’ alltime list for right wing scoring, trailing only Tim Kerr and Mark Recchi. He’s also fifth alltime among all franchise players for assists.
Voracek has a close relationship with Giroux. The trade, Voracek said, won’t change that.
“We are tight,’’ he said. “That won’t change for the rest of our lives, I would say. It (Columbus) is going to be different. My hockey career is going to end one day and there’s more important things than just be a teammate. You want to win. It didn’t work out. I just want to wish them (the Flyers) all the best. I’m sure it’s a bittersweet day for them as well.’’