Comrie heads into fire

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

It seems rather petty to hold a six-year grudge over something a guy did at 23, especially after he's admitted his mistake and is coming back to try and make things right.

But there has never been a shortage of petty people in this world, a few of whom might even be in the seats tonight when Mike Comrie, who joined the Oilers as a hometown hero in 2000 and left as a reviled traitor in 2003, returns for his second coming in Copper and Blue.

Some Edmontonians have put his bitter exit behind them, like Comrie and Kevin Lowe did long ago. They've accepted his explanation for wanting out and will treat him like any other Oiler, which isn't always great, but usually on par with what they deserve. Some can't, or won't, and will do their best to make him feel unwelcome.

Fair enough. The rules say that if you pay your money, you get to speak your mind. The 29-year-old isn't sure what to expect in his first game back in Edmonton, other than he's about to find out where the ticket buyers stand.

"It'll be one of those things that will be good to get out of the way," said Comrie, who'll draw in barring a last minute change of heart from Pat Quinn. "I'm sure there will be fans going both ways. Hopefully some cheers ... and some people who want me to play well to earn back that respect, I obviously know that."

How many of each? That question will be answered in a vote of 16,839 when Comrie takes his first shift.

"I think the fans will be great. I expect them to give him a very warm welcome," said captain Ethan Moreau.

"It's great to have him back. They've been a great family in this city for a long time, they've done a lot of good in this city. I think it's a pretty good story."

Most people, Comrie suspects, will take a wait and see attitude, reserving judgment till it's determined whether or not he's actually going to help this team. Play hard and score points and he'll win them back. Anything else and it could be a long, cold winter.

That's why his focus doesn't extend beyond the glass.

"The biggest thing is going out there and worrying about how I play," said Comrie, who had two assists in Tuesday's 4-1 road win in Calgary.

"The fans take pride in the Oilers; all I can ask for is to try and be part of this team. I've said all along I'm going to try and earn what I get."

It takes major brass to do what Comrie's doing because no matter what happens tonight the scrutiny isn't going to go away after one preseason tilt. He's well aware they'll be watching him like prison wardens for 82 games and that many will be trampled in the rush to tell him when things go poorly.

"I think he showed a lot of guts coming back to Edmonton," said Shawn Horcoff. "He realized the situation and knows if he doesn't play well what it's going to be like. But if he does, he feels he can win some fans back. And I hope he does."

He could have taken another deal somewhere, anywhere else, and not had to worry about any of this. I would have. But Comrie embraces the challenge.

"I knew what was going to be at stake, it's probably not going to be the easiest situation," he said. "I have to come in here every night and prove that I can help this be a better club. That's the reason I signed here."

Welcome home?

"I said when I came back that I realize how much this team means to the city," he said. "At a time when I was younger I didn't embrace it, and now that I'm older I hope to handle it more maturely. And I hope I can prove that I belong here."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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