Wearing Blue Jackets warmup gear, Ivan Provorov walked out to the visiting team's area of the Wells Fargo Center, down the hall from the Flyers' completely renovated locker room.
He was able to smile in his return to Philadelphia. But that didn't mean this was a facile return for the 26-year-old defenseman.
"A little bit of mixed feelings, mixed emotions," Provorov said ahead of Sunday night's game against his former team. "Obviously it's a little bit weird being in this building on the other side. I really enjoyed my time here, but for right now, it's kind of hard to find words. It's an emotional day."
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Provorov's time with the Flyers ended in June after seven seasons. He was the first trade of general manager Danny Briere's rebuilding summer. When Provorov went to the practice facility to gather some of his items, head coach John Tortorella and assistant coach Brad Shaw offered their insight on Columbus. Tortorella was the Blue Jackets' bench boss for parts of six seasons and Shaw was on his staff for five of them.
"They gave me a few things that they knew about the place," Provorov said. "Everyone from the organization in Columbus reached out to me right away, so that was very helpful, too."
Drafted by the Flyers seventh overall in 2015, it didn't take long for Provorov to show his stoic, ironman type of playing style. He seldom missed games, he almost never left games because of his toughness and competitive nature. He was labeled "a machine" by Jakub Voracek following a gutsy double-overtime performance in the 2020 playoffs.
"Seven years is a long time," Provorov said. "There's been some good times, there's been some bad times. But overall, when I played here, I thought I gave everything I had. When I do things, I put a lot into it, all of me into it."
Over the last three seasons, things simply did not feel the same as how they started. They seemed to sour as the Flyers stumbled into a rebuild and went through drastic changes. Provorov's play coincided with the organization's instability. He also had a rotating cast of defensive partners.
During a first-period stoppage Sunday night, the Flyers thanked Provorov by playing a tribute video on the Jumbotron. When the video finished, Provorov and the fans acknowledged each other.
"When you get drafted and you spend a long time with a team, you don't really picture yourself playing with anybody else, especially if you take your stuff serious and all of that," Provorov said before the Flyers' 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets. "But obviously the last few years haven't gone the way everyone wanted it to, so at the same time, it was disappointing. But on the other hand, it was exciting to have a new team that is excited to have you and excited to give you the opportunity to show who you are as a player."