Butch Goring and John Tonelli both received calls from Lou Lamoriello on Monday. Neither expected the legacy-cementing news the Islanders president and general manager conveyed.
“I was wondering why I was getting a call from Lou Lamoriello, saying, ‘Oh, no, what’s going on?’” Tonelli said.
“Being in the media with the Islanders, we always have to be careful about some of the things we do,” Goring said. “When I get a call from Lou, it’s ‘What did I do? I must be in trouble.’”
Quite the opposite.
The Islanders announced on Wednesday the two stalwarts from the dynastic 1980s teams will have their jerseys retired by the organization. Tonelli’s No. 27 will be lifted to the rafters at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 21 against the Red Wings and Butch Goring’s No. 91 will follow on Feb. 29 against the Bruins.
That will mean eight of the 16 who played for all four Stanley Cup champions from 1980 to 1983 will have their jerseys retired, including Denis Potvin (5), Clark Gillies (9), Bryan Trottier (19), Mike Bossy (22), Bob Nystrom (23) and Billy Smith (31).
The team also announced that current captain Anders Lee, with Tonelli’s blessing, will be able to continue wearing No. 27 for the rest of his career with the Islanders.
“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.”
Tonelli believes 27 is now “our number.”
“I would welcome and cherish and be proud if he continues to wear No. 27,” Tonelli said. “I borrowed it. I wore it. You couldn’t have a better person than Anders wearing it now. We’re on the same page. It’s our number. We’re in it together.”
Tonelli, 62, was a second-round pick of the Islanders in 1977 and was with the club from 1978 to 1986. In all, Tonelli played 1,028 NHL games with 325 goals and 511 assists. He totaled 206 goals and 338 assists in 594 regular-season games with the Islanders. His feed set up Nystrom’s overtime winner against the Flyers in the decisive Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup final.
“I am just so excited and full of such grateful emotion,” Tonelli said. “I consider myself a very lucky guy. If anything happens, I can fall back on what we accomplished as a group. It took so much energy to win the first Cup. I’ll never forget how tired I was and how much I wanted to go to bed. It gives such a great sense of pride to be part of that team.”
The Islanders acquired Goring, 70, now the team’s television analyst for MSG Networks, from the Kings on March 10, 1980. He was regarded as the final piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle after the talented Islanders had fallen short in previous playoff runs.
Goring was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 1981 as the playoff MVP with 10 goals and 10 assists in 18 games. He finished with 375 goals and 513 assists in 1,107 regular-season games, including 87 goals and 108 assists in 332 games for the Islanders from 1980 to 1985. Goring also coached the team from 1999 to 2001.
Goring acknowledged he yearned to have his number retired every time he saw the other banners.
“It’s such a reminder to the fans,” Goring said. “You start to hope that one day you can get to swing with those guys. February is not going to come fast enough. I’ll have a tough time not thinking about that particular day."
With Brian Heyman