It's a date most Flames fans had circled the very day the NHL schedule was released.
My first thought back in July in regards to his return was that Calgary Flames fans will boo Dion mercifully.
When I thought about his return in September when my season tickets were delivered, I laughed again to myself, "oh man, are people gonna boo this guy."
But, today, when I think about it, I have to wonder what will actually happen. People in this city are SOOOOOOOOO mad at Darryl Sutter; and it all started late last January when he panicked and dealt Dion Phaneuf to the Maple Leafs for some spare parts.
It's been nearly a year; just enough time to get a decent chance at analyzing the trade that took place. Honestly, it doesn't take much time and I won't bore you all with a complete breakdown, but Sutter was absolutely fleeced in this deal. Everyone knew it the day the trade was reported, some of us tried to convince ourselves that the Flames got the better defenseman in the trade (and that's probably true) but the bottom line was that Sutter traded a cornerstone d-man and the teams top defensive prospect for a group of players that aren't good enough to improve ANY team, let alone one that thinks its a Cup contender.
Dion Phaneuf was loved in Calgary. Dion Phaneuf was hated in Calgary. I think the majority of us would agree that it's mostly the kids who loved Dion, because anyone who paid close enough attention to his game realized that he barely put in any effort and was actually regressing as a player. Toronto fans were through the roof, and rightfully so, about the trade. But do they still feel that way now? I watch the Leafs often and see the same Dion that wore the Flaming 'C' those last 2 years and not the Dion that could dominate games. The feeling in Toronto will likely mirror that of Calgary's, maybe by the end of the year but he probably has a little more leniency because they're still a few years away from contending.
The bottom line having hashed it all out:
Dion will get booed by the Flames faithful. But, I don't think he should take it completely to heart, because a lot of that booing... a lot of that angst coming from a tortured fan-base... will be directed towards the man that made that terrible deal last January.
So - Darryl Sutter, when the 'dome erupts in boos tonight - know that a lot of it is directed towards you.
I should note that Flames fans will likely boo tonight, but it could very well be overshadowed by the cheers of Leafs fans in this city who spent inordinate amounts of money on tickets to this game. I expect the crowd will be 70/30 in favour of the home team... but we all know how loud and obnoxious the fans of the road team can be when they feel they have some numbers in the home teams barn. And - really, other than the playoffs, the 'dome doesn't really get that loud anymore anyway...