PHILADELPHIA – When he walked out of the locker room and into the hallway, Ivan Provorov looked slightly puzzled as he headed toward the pre-game designated press interview area.
The former Flyers defenseman, visiting the Wells Fargo Center for the first time on Sunday as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, had never talked to the media at this end of the building during his seven years in Philadelphia.
Naturally there were a few good-natured verbal pokes from the gathering but soon things got down to business.
The Flyers’ top pick (seventh overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft was traded to the Jackets via a three-way deal with Los Angeles after the 2022-23 season ended.
As far as transactions go, it really didn’t come as a surprise; Provorov didn’t seem like a real happy guy toward the end of his stay here. His refusal to take part in Pride Night activities last season kind of sealed the deal.
“It’s a little bit of mixed feelings, mixed emotions,” the 26-year-old Russian said. “Obviously it’s a little bit weird being in this building on the other side. But I really enjoyed my time here. For right now, it’s kind of hard to find words. It’s an emotional day but I’m looking forward to the game.”
The one thing Provorov didn’t want to do was get too caught up in the emotions of his first trip back.
“Seven years is a long time,” said Provorov, who broke into the NHL as a 19-year-old. “There have been some good times and there have been some bad times. But overall, when I played here I thought I gave everything I have.
“So when I do things, I put a lot into it, I put all of me into it. Like I said, it’s going to be a weird feeling being on the other side. At the same time, I want to focus on the two points and coming out of here with a win.”
Provorov was asked about his feelings when he learned of the trade. Was it more disappointing or was it more about the excitement of joining a new team?
“I think it was a little bit of both,” he said. “When you get drafted and you spend a lot of time with a team you don’t picture yourself playing anywhere else. Especially if you take yourself seriously and all that.
“The last few years didn’t go the way everyone wanted them to. At the same time it (the trade) was disappointing. It’s exciting to have a new team that’s excited to have you and give you the opportunity to show who you are as a player.”
The Blue Jackets have struggled the past few years but they’re hoping players such as Provorov can help with a revival.
Flyers rookie defenseman Egor Zamula, also from Russia, credits Provorov with serving as a good mentor the last couple years. Zamula is off to a quick start this season and the Flyers are happy with his play. He entered Sunday’s game with a team-leading plus-10.
“With my time here I tried to help as many guys as I could,” Provorov said. “Being from the same country and speaking the same language, I’ve been able to help him (Zamula) out. I’m glad I was able to help him any way I could.”
Now he hopes to do the same for Columbus forwards Yegor Chinakhov, Kirill Marchenko and Dmitri Voronkov.
“This is my eighth year,” said Provorov. “I’d like to think I have a lot of experience under my belt. Anything I can share to take that next step or have an easier adjustment, I love to do that.”
The Flyers thought they were really onto something when they acquired defenseman Matt Niskanen for the 2019-20 season and paired him with Provorov. They clicked right away and helped lead the Flyers to their first playoff win since 2012.
Then Niskanen suddenly retired and things went downhill from there.
If there were any doubts about Provorov leaving the Flyers on good terms, they were answered when he came back to Philly to pick up some stuff this past summer.
“I talked to ‘Torts’ (coach John Tortorella) and (associate coach) Brad Shaw,” Provorov said. “They spent five years in Columbus, so they gave me a few things they knew about the place.”
Columbus coach Pascal Vincent said Provorov has been a big piece of the team’s leadership group.
“He showed up in training camp in real good shape,” the coach said. “He brings experience Our penalty kill has gone really well. We have a few young Russian players and he’s like a big brother for them. We’re really excited to have him.”