Two more dynastic New York Islanders will see their numbers rise to the rafters in February 2020. John Tonelli’s no. 27, and Butch Goring’s no. 91 will join their former teammates high above the Nassau Coliseum ice on the 21st and the 29th respectively.
The New York Islanders haven’t retired a jersey number since October 20, 2001, when they sent Bryan Trottier’s no. 19 to the rafters. Now, over 18 years later, the organization will send John Tonelli‘s 27 and Butch Goring‘s 91 to the rafters as well, per the organization.
Tonelli, a second-round selection in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, joined the Islanders in July of 1978 after his WHA team the Houston Aeros folded. Tonelli spent seven and a half seasons on Long Island from 1978-79 to 1985-86. His number 27 will be retired on February 21, a game against the Detroit Red Wings.
Today, Tonelli is probably most fondly remembered for his 1980 Stanley Cup Finals assist to
that ignited the Islanders dynasty. Or maybe it was his tying goal late in game five of the 1982 division semifinals against Pittsburgh that saved the team from near-elimination.
What happens to Anders Lee who currently wears Tonelli’s number 27? Tonelli, who ranks eighth on the Islanders all-time scoring list at 544 points, said today that he can wear ‘their’ number in a statement released by the organization.
"“I have spoken with current Islanders team captain Anders Lee and from seeing the tremendous leader he is, I told him that I would be honored if he continues to wear our number until the end of his career,”"
Butch Goring joined the Islanders in March of 1980 and has often been regarded as the piece the team had to that point been missing. He scored 19 points in 21 playoff games that season. Goring would improve upon his initial success by netting 20 points in as many games in 1981, helping the Islanders to their second Stanley Cup en route to the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Goring’s 91 will rise to the rafters just eight days after Tonelli’s celebration, on February 29 against the Boston Bruins.
Goring and Tonelli were two of the 16 Isles to play for the team during all four Stanley Cup victories.
The fact that both these guys’ numbers will be retired at Nassau Coliseum is just the finest of touches by the organization. It speaks to the fact that the Islanders as an organization really seem to have their finger on the pulse in recent years in more ways than just on-ice performance.
This is something that should have been done a while ago. But only since the Ledecky and Malkin ownership has the organization made a dedicated effort to bring in its alumni like John Tonelli. Recognizing Tonelli and Goring in this way is something some fans have been asking for for a while. And now, here we are with both 27 and 91 going up to the rafters.
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Like MSG’s Brendan Burke stated over Twitter. This honor is about Butch (and Tonelli) and nothing else.