The New York Islanders announced on Wednesday, December 18 that Butch Goring’s and John Tonelli’s numbers would be retired and raised to the rafters – an honor neither player expected and all the fans love.
Both players will be honored at the Barn. Tonelli’s No. 27 will be lifted on February 21, 2020 before a game against Detroit, and Goring’s No. 91 will follow on February 29 before a game against Boston. They join Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Bobby Nystrom and Billy Smith in the rafters.
“You see their name up there and start to hope that someday you might be able to swing with those guys,” Goring said in a press conference. “For that moment to finally come for myself and John, it’s completely overwhelming. It’s been hard for me to grasp what’s happened here because it’s something that I’ve been hoping for.
“I’m a little concerned that [my emotions] might get a little looser than I would like them to.”
It’s a small shame Goring’s ceremony couldn’t be two weeks earlier before the home game against the Kings, the team that drafted him and that he had his best statistical years with. However, he ended his career with the Bruins and spent a short time as the Boston head coach, so it still makes sense. As well, the Kings game is in Barclay’s Center. Tonelli and Goring played in the Coliseum, became legends in the Coliseum, and should be honored in the Coliseum.
When they heard the news from President and GM Lou Lamoriello, both Goring and Tonelli were surprised and flattered.
“The accomplishments we achieved as a team throughout my years as a New York Islander will always be the greatest memories I have from playing the game,” Tonelli told the media. “To have my number retired alongside several of my former teammates is incredibly humbling.”
John Tonelli, the original “JT” of the franchise, spent eight seasons with the Islanders. He was selected 33rd overall in the 1977 Draft and went on to scored 206 goals and 338 assists for the team. Besides his passion for the game and the team, he’s best known for his playoffs heroics: setting up Nystrom’s overtime 1980 Stanley Cup-winning goal and tying game five of the 1982 division semifinals, which saved the Isles from near-elimination. Tonelli was also named an All-Star in 1982 and 1985.
His number is currently worn by Captain Anders Lee, but neither the alumnus nor the current player minds.
“John was phenomenal with it,” Lee said. “I was extremely thankful and grateful for him giving me the blessing. It’s a huge honor for me to wear his number. He’s the real two-seven. I’ll just try to carry on what he did before.”
“You couldn’t have a better person than Anders wearing it now,” Tonelli praised. “We’re on the same page. It’s our number. We’re in it together.”
Butch Goring was “the final piece of the puzzle.” Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in a March 1980 trade, Goring joined the Isles in lifting the first Cup and spent another five seasons on Long Island. He scored 195 points with the Islanders and took a total of just 30 penalties in minutes. He had 68 points in 99 playoffs games, is credited as the original playoff beard, won the Con Smythe Trophy after the 1982 Stanley Cup, represented the Islanders as the 1980 All-Star, and received the Lady Byng and Masterton Awards in 1978. After retiring from playing, he joined the Islanders’ coaching staff for a season and a half from 1999-2001.
Even with all that, he’s currently loved by the fans as a great on-air analyst. Besides Brendan Burke, he keeps the fans entertained and loving hockey even when the team isn’t performing as well.
With Tonelli and Goring joining the ranks above the ice, the Islanders have retired 8 of the 16 players that participated in all four Stanley Cups. The organization is also proving that it cares about and understands the fans as it honors two highly-deserving long-time favorites.
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