Josh Bailey vividly remembers his NHL debut, a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on November 11th, 2008 at the Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders’ first round pick (9th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft did not play in the first fourteen games of the season, but when he stepped onto the ice that day at “The Barn”, it was a dream come true.
“Like anyone when you play your first game, you’re a little in awe of everything,” said Bailey, now in his 12th season with the Islanders. “It was such a big moment that you dreamt about for so long. You’re just kind of looking around a lot.”
Bailey will likely spend some time looking around when he hits the ice for warmups on Tuesday night as he becomes the 6th player in Islanders history to play in 800 games when the Isles take on the Edmonton Oilers at the Coliseum. Last season, Bailey moved past Mike Bossy (753 games) and could very well pass Bob Bourne (814 games) and Clark Gillies (872 games) later on this season to move into 4th place on the Isles’ all-time list.
If that happens, only Bryan Trottier (1,123), Denis Potvin (1,060) and Bob Nystrom (900) would have played more games for the Islanders than Bailey who could pass Nystrom next season.
“To have done it all here is certainly special when you look at the other names on that list,” said Bailey who turned 30 years old on October 2nd. “Just to be mentioned with some of those guys is something to be proud of.”
Bailey scored his first goal of the season in Sunday night’s 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets at the Coliseum. It was the 141st goal of his Islanders/NHL career and he continues to be a fan favorite as well as a lightning rod for discussion on Islanders Twitter about whether he is an “elite” NHL player.
Over the last few years, that argument has turned in his favor. In 2017-18, he was an NHL All-Star during a season in which he had 18 goals and 53 assists for 71 points. Last season, Bailey had 16 goals and 40 assists for 56 points. Barry Trotz watched Bailey perform for years when he coached the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals. Now in his second season as Islanders Head Coach, Trotz has gained an appreciate for “Bails”.
“Number one he’s a good pro,” said Trotz after practice on Thursday. “His hockey IQ is exceptional. He’s a great family guy. He takes a lot of pride in the jersey. All those things that you want and he’s willing to play any position you want him to. There’s a reason that he’s had longevity…because of the person that he is and the game that he has.”
When you factor in free agency, the salary cap, and how teams change from year to year, it’s hard to find many players that stay with a team for as long as Bailey has been with the Islanders. 800 games is a long time for a career in any sport and Bailey has spent his entire time in the NHL with just one team.
He’s an Islander through and through and has experienced a spectrum of emotions with this franchise including winning seasons, losing seasons and the entire arena saga that will finally end in 2021-22 when the Islanders are scheduled to begin play at the Belmont Park Arena.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Bailey. “I try not to think about those things too much. Those are things that you kind of reflect on later on but I’m definitely proud of it for sure to have done it. My entire career here has been special. Like anyone’s career, you’re going to go through a lot of highs and lows. I think it just makes you a better person, a better player and makes you get some thick skin out there too. It’s all a part of the ride.”
There has been some discussion about the Islanders retiring more numbers at some point and finally adding some more names to their Hall of Fame. Josh Bailey has proven to be an elite player and will be an Islanders Hall of Famer somewhere down road.