PrintPrint looks at some of the most hostile receptions in sports Staff

12/1/2010 6:39:17 PM

LeBron James is set to make one of the most anticipated returns in basketball history on Thursday in Cleveland, the same day Dany Heatley returns to Ottawa for the first time as a San Jose Shark.

James' return to Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat can be seen Thursday on TSN2 at 8pm et/5pm pt. Heatley's return to Ottawa can be seen Thursday on TSN at 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt.

With that in mind, looks at some of the most hostile receptions in sports over the years.

Alexei Yashin:

Yashin was Ottawa's first draft pick ever, second overall in 1992. He was, for a short period of time, the darling of the city, tallying 491 points in 504 games. But money disputes with management forced GM Marshall Johnston to ship the star centre to the New York Islanders and Yashin's first game back in the nation's capital was anything but hospitable.

Yashin was booed heartily when he won the game's opening faceoff and fired a shot at goalie Patrick Lalime just four seconds in, and again moments later before firing over the net on New York's first scoring chance before the game was 30 seconds old. The crowd cheered loudly when Yashin was penalized for high-sticking Ottawa defenseman Zdeno Chara - who was acquired from New York in that trade.

But the best measure of revenge? A 5-2 win. "We knew it was going to be an emotional game," Senators forward Marian Hossa said. "We wanted to win, especially for the fans. It was like a playoff game because the people were fired up."

Clarence Campbell/The Riot:

There was not a more hostile reception than Campbell's upon returning to the Montreal Forum after suspending Canadiens' star Maurice 'Rocket' Richard. On March 17, 1955, one day after Campbell suspended Richard for the remainder of the season and playoffs following an incident in a game against the Boston Bruins, his presence at the Forum set off 'The Riot.'

"More than 15,000 demonstrators broke up the game shortly after Campbell's presence became known. They climaxed their angry outbursts by dropping a tear gas bomb near seats taken by Campbell and Richard," the United Press wrote the night of the Riot.

"Campbell was slapped by an irate supporter of Richard. The league president was escorted to safety through a barrage of eggs, overripe tomatoes and water-filled paper bags.

"The enraged mob also smashed windows of stores in the neighbourhood and later looted 46 stores." The Canadiens forfeited the game after the tear gas bomb forced the evacuation of the Forum.

Brett Favre:

If making Packer fans endure his retirement drama for two-plus seasons wasn't enough, Brett Favre returned to Lambeau Field in 2009 as a member of Green Bay's biggest rival, the Minnesota Vikings. If seeing Favre, who spent 16 seasons in Green Bay, don a New York Jets jersey in 2008 wasn't too much for Packer fans to forgive, seeing him wear the hated purple of the Vikings certainly was.

"There were shirts calling him everything from "Traitor" to "Judas" to "Drama Queen." One fan carried a poster with "True Legends Don't Wear Purple." Behind the Vikings bench, someone hung a "Welcome Back to Lambeau Field ... B-R-E-N-T" sign," wrote the Associated Press of Favre's return. 

A plane carrying a banner that read 'Retire 4 Good' flew above the stadium before the game and although there were some cheers for their former hero, most Packer fans booed him relentlessly for all four quarters. Watching Favre boisterously celebrate touchdowns with his receivers, just like he did so many times as a Packer, was particularly hard for Green Bay fans to take.

"It was about what I expected," Favre said of his chilly reception at Lambeau after the game, which the Vikings won 38-26.

Vince Carter/Tracy McGrady:

It's been nearly six years since Carter was traded from the Toronto Raptors and his status of 'public enemy number one' is still firmly entrenched. Once the Raptors' most popular player, Carter is now unquestionably the team's most hated. Raptor fans' feelings towards the player formerly known as 'Air Canada' stem largely from their impression that he gave up on the team.

"After admitting he did not always give his all with the Raptors, Carter was greeted with boos during warm-ups and with chants of "V.C. (stinks)" for much of the night by a boisterous crowd. Extra security was on hand for Carter's return to the Air Canada Centre," wrote at the time.

Tracy McGrady, Carter's cousin, is another former Raptor star who faces a full chorus of boos every time he returns. McGrady was traded in 2000 after it was apparent he wouldn't re-sign with the team.

"McGrady blew off the Raptors, then blew them away by making it sound as if he was escaping a system that had held him down all these years and kept him hidden in the shadow of Vince Carter," wrote Sports Illustrated at the time. "His mother even ripped Carter in a magazine article, worsening an already growing feud (with the Raptors)."

J.D. Drew:

Drafted second overall by the Philadelphia Phillies and 1997, Drew was billed as the game's next big thing. But Drew and agent Scott Boras opted not to sign with the Phillies over money matters. The Phillies had no plan to pay a young unproven player an outrageous amount of money and was drafted the following year by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Leave it to Phillie fans to have long memories.

Drew was booed and serenaded by the crowd of 48,514 in his first game in Philadelphia on August 10, 1999. The game was delayed nearly 10 minutes in the eighth after debris landed near Drew in center field.

"They were throwing batteries," manager Tony La Russa said. "With that history, to me, the first battery that comes out on the field the game's over. I hope that precedent's set. Somebody throws a battery, Phillies lose."

While making a pitching change, La Russa escorted Drew off the field and met with the umpires. Public address announcer Dan Baker warned the crowd that the Phillies would have to forfeit the game if more objects were thrown on the field.

Eric Lindros:

Lindros returned to Quebec City on October 13, 1992, a little over a year after refusing to play for the team, or even don its jersey, when the Nordiques drafted him first overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft.

Fearing the chaotic reception the young star would surely face, the Flyers left him behind when they travelled to Quebec earlier in the year for an exhibition game, but knew Lindros would eventually have to face the music.

"In view of all the rancor between the Nordiques and Lindros over the last two years, it is easy to understand why Lindros traveled with a professional bodyguard for this trip and why city officials took all those security precautions at the Colisee tonight," Joe Lapointe wrote in the New York Times.

And the fans unleashed their anger at Lindros that night, targeting his perceived snub of the French-Canadian culture and spoofing his relationship with his outspoken and overprotective mother.

"Grown men donned diapers over their clothing, put pacifiers in their mouths and pushed each other around in baby carriages through the halls. One man carried a replica of the Stanley Cup with a large pacifier in the bowl on top," wrote Lapointe.

"A few fans threw baby bottles on the ice, along with eggs and other debris. Although Quebec Province has a law mandating that all commercial signs be in French, several home-made messages to Lindros were in English, including "Two cultures would've been too much for you."

Lindros was able to focus on hockey despite the circus atmosphere in the stands, netting two goals in the Flyers' 6-3 loss that night.

Johnny Damon:

For Red Sox fans, what was even harder to stomach than their former hero in Yankee pinstripes, may have been his lack of facial hair. Gone was the long hair and wild beard that made him so famous in Boston, replaced instead by the Yankee-mandated clean shaven look; Red Sox Nation peppered Damon with boos all night.

"Of the 36,339 fans who crammed into the old bandbox on Yawkey Way to witness Damon's return, the vast majority of them turned against him. They rose to their feet, cupped their hands to their mouths and booed, overwhelming a smattering of cheers," wrote Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post.

"Fans showed up early and booed Damon during batting practice. They booed his name during the PA announcement of the starting lineups. They tossed fake money at him," Sheinin wrote.

The sell-out signs and taunts were particularly popular that day after Damon was quoted as saying "there's no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they are going to come after me hard," heading into free agency after his final season in Boston.

Chris Pronger:

Months after helping the Edmonton Oilers to a Stanley Cup appearance, Chris Pronger returned to Rexall Place on November 28, 2006 as an Anaheim Duck after requesting a trade out of town. Edmonton fans took Pronger's trade request personal when the media reported that it was at the request of his wife, who wasn't happy living in the city.

"Considering the frenzy going in, Oiler fans handled themselves perfectly. There was booing, there were signs – including at least one thanking Pronger for his Alberta performance – and there was one tossed object," reporter Elliotte Friedman wrote of Pronger's return.

While Pronger was booed consistently, the outcome wasn't nearly as bad as many had feared considering some fans' actions during the offseason when the star defenceman was traded.

"There's obviously a few things that didn't sit well with me," said Pronger in an interview with ESPN's Jim Rome. "For instance, taking the furniture that I had in my house and burning it and having a 'Burn Chris Pronger's Furniture Day.'"

Roger Clemens:

After 12 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Clemens signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent in 1997 after a falling out with Red Sox management. Fans felt betrayed by their former ace because instead of signing with a contender or a team closer to home like he said he would, Clemens signed a big money deal with the Jays.

"He took the field to the Mickey Mouse theme song instead of "Rocket Man," as he did during his time in Boston, and was greeted by a mixed welcome from the crowd of 33,106 - the first full house this year," wrote Jimmy Golen of the Associated Press.

"Instead of hanging up "K" cards to count his strikeouts, fans held up signs that said "Betrayal" and "Roger is a traitor" but also one that said, "Rocking Roger, Cy Young No. 1, Boston thanks you for all you have done."

Much like Carter in Toronto, Clemens had a dominating performance, striking out a then club-record 16 batters to lead the Jays to a 3-1 victory.