Call it a 'Gordie Howe did he do that' hat trick

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

By the third period, having already won over the majority of fans at Rexall Place with a dynamic, four-assist performance, Mike Comrie was just showing off.

His fairytale homecoming hardly needed an exclamation point, but he decided to give it one anyway, dropping the gloves for a spirited scrap with Florida's Eric Himelfarb.

And just like that, with a night that nobody would have believed if they weren't there to see it for themselves, one of the most hated former Oilers in franchise history had the building chanting his name.

Now, chanting his name is nothing new, only this time they weren't saying "Sucks" at the end of it. All it took was a four-point, one-fight, first-star effort.

Had there been time to sing the anthem and clean the ice, he would have done that, too.

"It felt pretty good, it was pretty emotional out there," said Comrie, in on all four goals in a 4-0 win over the Panthers. "I didn't really know what to expect, but I've said since I signed that I was going to try and earn their respect back. For them to chant my name ... I'd be lying if I didn't say it felt unbelievable, and I appreciate it."

The place was rather cool for Comrie's first few shifts. It wasn't a glorious embrace, and they didn't rain venom down on him, either. It felt more along the lines of "if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all."

There was a smattering of boos and some polite cheers, though he never had the puck on his stick long enough to get a decent crescendo going.

But at 7:47 of the second period, when they announced that Comrie had scored to make it 2-0, (a goal later awarded to Patrick O'Sullivan), it got loud, about an 70-30 cheers-to-boos ratio. An M.C. Clamour, if you will.

Seven minutes later, when they announced his second assist, it was about 75-25.

Two minutes after that, when they announced his third, it was 80-20. And five minutes into the third, after the fight, it was unanimous.

Comrie! Comrie! Comrie!

In his wildest dreams, he didn't expect a night like this.

"No," he said. "That's what makes it that much more special. I felt rejuvenated, felt excited. I saw my brother and my sister up there, my family that was here, and it brought back some memories. I know it's only exhibition, but it's definitely nice to feel this way.

"It's not just a one-game thing, I'm going to have to play hard every night. They expect their players to play hard and when they play hard they acknowledge it."

It appears the masses are ready to put everything behind him ... as long as he's really good. Which he has been so far. In two games he's been on the ice for seven goals, factoring in on six of them.

"I really think that this crowd is an educated hockey crowd and when they see their players playing hard, even with the history I have here.

"I'm trying to do it slowly, but I feel very excited to be back here."

He even got a chance to address the place in person when they interviewed him on the scoreboard.

"I knew it was going to be an adjustment," he said. "But I'd like to thank the fans for cheering me."

And the fight? Hamming it up by then? "I think the start of the third there was a bit of a lull. We were facing off, I just asked him. He's trying to earn a spot as well. We threw a few punches. For the crowd to get that excited I feel very excited. I can't say enough."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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