Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson ready for 'last ride' together at NHL all-star game
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson ran the gamut of emotions starring for the Vancouver Canucks.
Playoff highs. Crushing defeats. And a miserable 2022-23 season.
Despite this week's stunning news one would be moving on from the West Coast, they will get a few more chances to skate alongside each other.
Traded to the New York Islanders in Monday's blockbuster deal, Horvat is still set to suit up for the Pacific Division as part of the NHL's all-star festivities.
"It's gonna be fun and weird and awesome at the same time," Vancouver's former captain said Thursday at the league's sun-kissed media day accented by Florida's Atlantic Coast serving as a postcard backdrop. "I don't really know how to approach it or how to talk about it."
"The last ride, I guess," said Pettersson, seated a few metres to his ex-teammate's left. "It is what it is."
There were plenty of rumours surrounding Horvat's future with the club that picked him ninth overall at the 2013 draft as the Canucks' disastrous campaign lurched forward.
The 27-year-old is putting in a banner year, having already matched his career-high for goals (31) set last season and chugging along at a 90-point pace.
Vancouver felt it went as far as it could with a contract offer for the pending unrestricted free agent.
Horvat, meanwhile, felt he was worth a lot more.
A trade seemed inevitable, but when it was announced the Canucks had shipped their leader to New York for forwards Anthony Beauvillier and Aatu Raty — plus a first-round pick — the news still came as a shock.
"You never think about getting a trade call — ever," said Horvat, who has his wife and young family with him in South Florida. "To actually get one, it was definitely weird. I really didn't know how to take it."
The London, Ont., native signed his first Islanders jersey sporting his new digits — No. 14 instead of No. 53 — for a fan Thursday afternoon.
"Had to really concentrate to write 14 instead of 53," Horvat said with a grin.
Pettersson, less enthusiastic a few metres away, said the rumblings surrounding his now-former teammate's future prepared him for what was to come.
"It's nothing I can control," said the 24-year-old Swede. "Obviously, everybody thought things would play out differently, but (it didn't).
"Now you can just look ahead and not think of what could have happened."
Horvat will lace up his skates for the Pacific Division against the Central in Saturday's first all-star semifinal. If they make the final, they could face a couple members of Horvat's new club should the Metro Division also advance. He'll also take part in Friday's skills competition
"It still hasn't really sunk in yet," Horvat said of the trade. "It's been tough, but I'll obviously cherish my time in Vancouver.
"It's sad, but I'm really excited for this new adventure."
He's also a little uneasy at the prospect of walking into a new locker room after getting traded for the first time in his life.
"Really anxious to meet the guys and get my bearings,” Horvat said. "(All-star week) is great, but I kind of want to get back it."
"I'm so nervous," he added. "Really, I am. It's a city that I don't know a ton about yet. I know a couple of the guys, but just meeting all the new players and getting used to the new systems and just everything — the culture there. It's really nerve-racking, I'm not gonna lie. This is different for me."
Horvat said Henrik and Daniel Sedin — the Canucks legends who mentored him and passed the leadership torch after their retirements — reached out after the deal to Long Island.
"They were very complimentary of me and thanked me for all my time there," Horvat said. "And I thanked them for everything that they've done for me. They groomed me to be the player and person I am."
And he'll will get a few more chances to skate alongside Pettersson.
"Unless we join teams again later down in our careers," Horvat said. "Really excited to see him."
There was a sense from both players it wasn't supposed to end this way.
"Tough to see it happen,” Pettersson added. "But business is business.
"At least we get one more game — and hopefully two more games."
MCDAVID LOOKS BACK
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid was asked to reminisce about the 2015 NHL draft in Florida when he was selected No. 1.
"Full circle … eight years later," said the NHL's leader in goals and points. "My draft day, we actually rented Sea-Doos and we were bombing around out there with my family."
Toronto's Mitch Marner (fourth overall), Colorado's Mikko Rantanen (10th overall) and Anaheim's Troy Terry (148th overall) are the other 2015 draftees taking part in this year's all-star game.
Dallas Stars head coach Peter DeBoer, who's leading the Central Division this weekend, got his NHL start in Florida with the Panthers in 2008 before getting fired after three seasons.
"First NHL job, kind of flamed out after three years," he said before adding with a laugh: "When I hit the edge of town, I'm not sure many people here thought I'd be back coaching an all-star game."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press