There were times this off-season when fans wondered if there would be a 15th season for Josh Bailey in a New York Islanders sweater - some hoped there wouldn't be. But weeks away from another training camp and weeks removed from speculation, the 32-year-old 2008 draft pick remains with the only NHL franchise he's ever known, and at home, with the life he's built on Long Island.
In a player feature on the NHLPA website, Bailey talks about all that has and hasn't changed since making his debut during the 2008-09 season. The Ontario native's approach has remained widely the same, even if everything from coaches, owners, teammates, arenas, and expectations is different.
Whether it's being serenaded by the Isles Faithful after a goal or drawing the ire of the fanbase, Bailey hasn't craved the spotlight, but it occasionally finds him - sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. But for one night this season, Bailey will the storyline before puck drop.
He's seven games away from becoming only the third Islander to play 1,000 games with the franchise - joining Hall of Famers Denis Potvin and Bryan Trottier. If he remains healthy and in the lineup, the milestone will be reached on October 26th, 2022, versus the New York Rangers at UBS Arena.
"I don’t ever know if you have a blueprint for what your career will be. For me, it’s always been about staying in the moment. If you look too far ahead, things don’t typically work out the way you want. It’s really about staying focused. But when you do come across things like this [1,000 games], you do take a little bit of time to reflect."- Josh Bailey
Bailey has been an alternative captain since the 2018-2019 season, but you will be hard-pressed to find a video of him yapping on the bench or getting in the ear of his teammate. That's not his style, but when you've played 993 NHL games, you've seen a lot, and when necessary, Bailey can dip into his wealth of personal experiences to provide value and perspective to his teammates.
"Obviously, the older you get, the more experience, life experience, you get under your belt, and that helps you in any conversations you have with anyone, whether they are a younger player or a buddy your own age, said Bailey. "The bottom line is that everyone is here to help each other out."
“We’ve had a lot of guys who have been here for a while, and we’ve added some quality people along the way. It’s a fun room to come in and be a part of. We understand what it takes when it comes to the grind of a season, but also when to have fun.”
Whatever you're feelings towards Bailey the player (and there are a lot of them), there should be a universal acknowledgment of the accomplishment he's set to achieve this early this season and how rare it is to be achieved with one team.
“When that moment [1,000 games] comes along, I know it will be something myself and my family will always remember. You start thinking about when you started, all of the great people you’ve met along the way, the friendships you gain, the sacrifices others have made and the sacrifices you have made. All of that just makes you feel very fortunate and grateful.”