Mike Komisarek has joined the rival team, and he knows that kind of move comes with consequences.
In signing a five-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the former Montreal Canadien is guaranteed to face off against his old team at least six times next season since both teams are in the NHL's Northeast Division.
"It's tough to look that far ahead," Komisarek said Thursday on a conference call. "I'm looking forward to the first game of the season and for the first time stepping into the Maple Leaf uniform, but I'm sure it'll be quite the experience when we play Montreal.
"I'll worry about that when we get there, but I'm sure you guys [reporters] won't forget that date. People [in Montreal] are definitely not going to be cheering for me, but it's hockey, it's competition. It's what makes our sport great. You go from being hero to villain to hero."
The 27-year-old defenceman, an unrestricted free agent who signed a $22.5-million US deal with the Leafs, was offered a deal to stay in Montreal but turned it down.
Right-winger Alex Kovalev also refused an offer from Montreal.
Canadiens' general manager Bob Gainey said Komisarek never gave him a counter-offer before entering the market. Kovalev was closer to signing, but when he hesitated, Gainey took the opportunity to sign other players.
"This is the business we're in; sometimes, relationships don't work out," Komisarek said. "I've had nothing but great experiences in Montreal with the fans.
"Hopefully, one day, we'll move on."
Komisarek spent his entire NHL career in Montreal up to this point since the Canadiens selected him seventh overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
Toronto general manager Brian Burke is working toward building a big, physical team, a reason Komisarek, a hard-hitting blueliner who's six-foot-four and 240 lbs., decided to sign with the Leafs.
A native of West Islip, N.Y., Komisarek said he never considered returning back home and signing with the New York Islanders.
"I've always had a vision of myself playing in a traditional hockey market," he said. "I enjoy having that atmosphere, that electricity in the building, day in and day out.
"It was great in Montreal, and it's going to be really great in Toronto. It's tough to find that now in New York. They're looking for a new building, and they've got questions with their team. At the end, Toronto was a good fit for me."With files from The Canadian Press