Some players just don’t look right in jerseys that differ from the one they’ve worn for years. In most of the big leagues, athletes can sign one-day contracts so that they may retire as a member of the team that made their career. Other times, a trade brings that star back into the fold. Then, there’s always returning from retirement. Here is some of the greatest returns home in sports history.
Trevor Linden – Vancouver Canucks (NHL)
Trevor Linden, captain of the Vancouver Canucks was traded to the New York Islanders in 1998. After bouncing around to a couple other teams, the Canucks reacquired the heart and soul leader of their last championship appearance team. In Linden’s first game back (which I attended with the Sip Family), he notched a couple points and was named the second star of the game, allowing fans to dedicate all their energy specifically to one of the team’s most legendary figures. A few years later, Linden left the game the right way, serenaded by the fans who adored him for so many years, and making a final trip around the ice surface that hosted so many memories for all involved.
Doug Gilmour – Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
Growing up, for some bizarre reason that I may never be able to explain, I was a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Please collect your jaws from the floor… sadly, it’s true. My favourite player was Doug Gilmour, a gritty and talented player, who nearly led the team to their first Stanley Cup since 1967. Gilmour was traded to New Jersey in 1997, but would return to the Leafs at the 2003 trade deadline, causing fans to rejoice. Sadly, in just his second shift back with the team, he collided knee-on-knee with Calgary’s Dave Lowry and was done for the season, later calling it a career that summer.
Hulk Hogan – World Wrestling Entertainment
In the 1980’s, Hulk Hogan’s symbiotic relationship with the then World Wrestling Federation launched both entities into the stratosphere. Working together, Hogan became one of the most popular wrestlers of all-time, while the WWF became the first promotion to enjoy national mainstream exposure and success. Hogan left the company in 1993 to perform in World Championship Wrestling and didn’t return to the soon-to-be-renamed WWE until 2002. He originally returned as a bad guy, but fans would not have any of that, cheering for Hogan to once again become the “Real American” character most had grown up with. They got their wish and fans feverishly ate up the nostalgia act.
Ken Griffey, Jr. – Seattle Mariners (MLB)
Ken Griffey, Jr. grew up in the Seattle Mariners organization, debuting in 1989 and even playing alongside his father, Ken Griffey, Sr. Griffey became the face of the franchise and even the entire league, adorning video games, posters, t-shirts, and other merchandise. The slugger was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 2000, as he wished to play closer to home and be more involved in the lives of his children. Griffey’s numbers declined following the trade, but petitions were signed by Seattle fans to bring him back. Finally, in 2009, Griffey returned to the Mariners. His second tenure had its issues, like Griffey being accused of napping in the clubhouse during games, but he was honoured into the team’s Hall of Fame in August 2013.
Michael Jordan – Chicago Bulls (NBA)
After winning three straight NBA titles in the early 90’s, there was nothing left for Michael Jordan to accomplish. When his father was murdered that summer, Jordan retired from basketball and decided to try his hand at professional baseball, hoping to realize his father’s dream of him playing in the Majors. When his baseball dream fizzled out, it was back to the hard court and the Bulls for Jordan. Another three NBA Championships followed before Jordan left the game again in 1999. His last return to basketball was with the Washington Wizards, a team he had part-ownership with and had been President of Basketball Operations.
Mario Lemieux – Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)
Like Jordan, Mario Lemieux kept returning to the game he loved after time away from the rink proved he still had too much passion for the sport to watch from the sidelines. Super Mario returned from cancer and a retirement to put up all-star level numbers and pad his legacy as one of the game’s greatest players. While he never won another Stanley Cup, he was an integral member of Canada’s gold medal victory at the 2002 Winter Olympics and also saved the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise as owner of the team, ushering in the Sidney Crosby era.
Drink #253: Homeward Bound
- 1.5 oz Spiced Rum (I used Sailor Jerry’s)
- Top with Lemonade
- Garnish with Lemon Wheel
What was your favourite return home? As above, it can be an athlete, an actor, or hell, it could be Ron Jeremy’s long-awaited return to the world of pornography!
Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This was a simple, but very enjoyable cocktail. I love the name about as much as I adore Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum and the moment I saw this recipe advertised at a local bar, I knew I’d be making it when I went home. The caramel-flavour of the Spiced Rum works nicely with the tart Lemonade and makes for one fine drink!