OTTAWA - It's may be a year late, but Ottawa is finally getting a chance to give Mike Fisher a proper send-off.
A Senators fan favourite for 11 seasons, Fisher was traded to Nashville on Feb. 10, 2011, while the team was on the road. There was no time for any goodbyes.
So it's no surprise that a Fisher love-in is expected when the veteran forward makes his return to Scotiabank Place with the Predators on Thursday.
"I'm excited, but a little nervous at the same time," said Fisher. "I have so many great memories of my time in Ottawa. It's going to be nice to see a lot of friends and the fans."
The Fisher deal came as a shock in Ottawa. General manager Bryan Murray even admitted at the time he didn't really want to make the trade.
In an effort to soften the blow, Murray dealt Fisher to Nashville so he could be closer to his new wife and country music superstar Carrie Underwood.
"Nashville has been very good to me," said Fisher. "The trade was hard, but if I had to go anywhere this was a great place to go. The team and fans have been great."
But even a year later, the void Fisher left is still felt.
"Me personally, I wish he was still here because we went through a lot together," said Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson.
While Alfredsson understands the trade as a business move, he admits it didn't make it any easier to lose his teammate.
"I think everybody knew what Fish brought on and off the ice," said Alfredsson. "He's a guy that embraces the community and helps people any way he can."
Fisher, 31, played 675 games for the Senators but also donated countless hours to local charities.
He was also a role model for other players. Ottawa forward Nick Foligno said Fisher took him under his wing and helped him learn the ropes in the NHL.
"I definitely missed him after the trade," said Folingo.
Fisher offered support as Foligno's mother battled cancer. After her death, the two wore patches sewn inside their hockey pants in memory of Janis Foligno.
"He's such a genuine guy and really got involved and I think the fans really appreciated everything he did," said Foligno. "I think everyone was so proud that he got so involved in the community and in this locker-room. He was a big leader in this room."
Fisher admits it will be strange not to be in the Sens dressing room on Thursday.
"For so many years I was on the other side and I'm sure that just walking into that visitors room will be strange," he said. "Once the game gets started I'm sure it will be fine."
In 46 games this season, Fisher has 16 goals and 32 points. Nashville is 10-0-1 in 2011-12 when he scores a goal and 18-2-1 when he records a point.
Ottawa forward Jason Spezza says it will be nice for Fisher to make his return, but at the same time the Senators will be looking to play their best.
"You always kind of compete a little harder, a little differently when you're facing someone that you played with for such a long time. It's fun to compete with those guys."