Josh Bailey probably didn't expect to be attending New York Islanders alumni night this season.
After being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2026 second-round pick, Bailey was subsequently bought out and free to sign with any team after spending his entire career with the Islanders after being drafted ninth overall in 2008, finishing third on the team's all-time games played list behind only Hall-of-Famers Denis Potvin and Bryan Trottier.
Despite a good showing in preseason games, Bailey was released from his professional tryout (PTO) with the Ottawa Senators, making him a free agent. The 34-year-old hasn't announced his retirement, but it feels rather unlikely he will resume his NHL career after sitting out this season.
Throughout the game last night vs. the Florida Panthers, the organization celebrated alumni in attendance from the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 2010s. The last player introduced was Bailey, who received a rousing ovation from the fanbase whom he had a sometimes polarizing relationship with throughout 15 seasons.
The crowd instantaneously broke out in serenading him with the "Heyyyyy, Josh Bailey" song, which was then backed up by the PA system playing song.
As for what Bailey is up to now, he is an active father of three kids on Long Island and being a youth hockey coach appears to be in his future. As a guest of Shannon Hogan and Thomas Hickey during the MSG Network pre-game show, Hickey, who lives in the same town as Josh, said he saw him clearing snow off a pond that had frozen over in recent days, letting kids in the neighborhood play pond hockey for a few days under his supervision.
"When you get a chance to decompress, you get to realize how busy you are during the year and how much you are tied to the schedule and travel," said Bailey. "It's been nice to enjoy that time at home with my wife and kids."
Even as Bailey knew the writing was on the wall that is Islanders career was over last spring, he always knew that Long Island would remain his home, meaning we should expect to see him around UBS Arena and future alumni nights for years to come.
"So many good memories. I really grew up here; so many great relationships," added Bailey. "We had our three kids here; my wife and I just love it here, and all the relationships along the way are what sticks out."
"It's like a big family and truly is such a great place to play and I'm happy to call it home."