John Tavares thanked Islanders fans and reflected on his time with the team via a Players' Tribune letter published on Wednesday.
The former Islanders' team captain described a breakdown-like situation he endured when he was forced to choose whether to sign with the Maple Leafs or remain with the Islanders -- a decision he said he "just literally, physically could not" make.
Tavares, who turned down an eight-year deal with the Islanders in favor of a contract with the Maple Leafs, said he wrote the letter because of his "real, honest, still-there love for the New York Islanders hockey franchise."
Tavares thanked several of his teammates and former coaches on the Islanders, as well as others within the organization, but he was especially thankful for the support of the Islanders' fans during his time on the team.
"It's like you look up into the stands one night, and suddenly it just … man, it really does hit you: what a community this place is, in every sense of the word," he said.
Tavares also said in the letter that he had not yet made a decision about his future when he attended meetings with various teams this off-season.
Tavares explained of his decision to join the Maple Leafs -- a decision that was rooted in his earliest days of his life.
"The Leafs weren't just my first hockey love. They were basically my first human memory," Tavares said before noting that he remembered where he was while he was watching the Leafs vs. the Blues in 1993 -- when he was maybe three years old.
Nonetheless, he said he also "grew up" in New York because he was just a 19-year-old when he was first drafted by the Islanders.
"I want to apologize, from the bottom of my heart, for things not working out - and for the fact that, under my captaincy, we fell short of our ultimate goal," he said. "But I gave it all that I had … and I can't tell you how grateful I am for how you gave me all that you had in return."