Schwartz: The Islanders Need To Add More Names To The Rafters

It’s been a long time since the Islanders added names to the team’s Hall of Fame banner that hangs from the rafters of the Nassau Coliseum. It’s been even longer since the Islanders retired a number but there aren’t as many candidates for that honor as there are for the team’s Hall of Fame. With Alumni Weekend coming up and a night to honor the 40th Anniversary of the first Stanley Cup Championship team from 1979-80 on Saturday night, there’s going to be over 100 former players in town.

Some of them, along with other past members of the organization, are deserving of consideration for the highest honors that a team can bestow on an individual.

In my opinion, there are three players who should be under consideration to have his number retired and all three should absolutely be in the team’s Hall of Fame. Islanders Co-Owner Jon Ledecky hinted at the Season Ticket Holder Groundbreaking Party at Belmont back on September 28th that the team needed more names in the rafters so I wouldn’t be surprised if the team made an announcement this weekend on a future date for a ceremony.

My three candidates for jersey retirement are…

No. 91 Butch Goring: Known to Islanders fans as “The Final Piece To The Puzzle” when he was acquired before the trading deadline during the 1979-80 season, Goring helped the Islanders win four straight Stanley Cups. In six seasons with the Islanders, Goring had 87 goals, 108 assists, and 195 points. He is tied for 4th in team history with 16 shorthanded goals. Islanders fans are desperate for the team to retire Goring’s #91 because of his continued affiliation with the team as a coach and broadcaster but also because of the anger over John Tavares, who also wore #91, and the former captain’s decision to leave the team as a free agent after the 2017-18 season.

No. 16 Pat LaFontaine: A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, one of the greatest American players in hockey history should have been an Islander for life. He was the third overall pick by the Islanders in the 1983 NHL Draft and joined the team after the 1984 Winter Olympics in time for the Islanders’ run to their fifth straight Stanley Cup Final. LaFontaine played eight seasons for the Islanders scoring 287 goals and dishing out 279 assists for 566 points over 530 games. His time with the Islanders ended due to a contract dispute and after a holdout to start the 1991-92 season, LaFontaine was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in a deal that brought the Islanders back Pierre Turgeon, Uwe Krupp and Benoit Hogue. LaFontaine would eventually rejoin the organization as an advisor to late owner Charles Wang in 2006 but resigned after the quick firing of General Manager Neil Smith.

No. 27 John Tonelli: An Islander for eight seasons and a member of all four Stanley Cup Championship teams, Tonelli was always a fan favorite and came up with so many clutch goals as well as the assist on Bobby Nystrom’s overtime goal that gave the Islanders their first Stanley Cup in 1980. Tonelli, who was “JT” before John Tavares was “JT”, racked up 206 goals, 338 assists, and 544 points over 594 games in an Islanders sweater. He is 8th on the Islanders’ all-time scoring list and is 5th in team history with a +215 rating. There was a disconnect between the Tonelli and the Islanders for many years, but he’s back making appearances for the organization and there is growing momentum for a night in his honor. If they do retire his #27, current Islanders captain Anders Lee would likely have to pick a different number.

I think you can make a case for all three, but my pick for the next number to be retired would be Pat LaFontaine’s #16. He was the link from the Stanley Cup years to the next era of Islanders hockey and remains a huge fan favorite to this day. He played eight out his 15 NHL seasons with the Islanders and his jersey should be the next one raised to the rafters.

As far as the Islanders Hall of Fame is concerned, I would immediately put Butch Goring and John Tonelli on the banner even though I think there is a chance that they will both have their numbers retired anyway somewhere down the wrong. I could be wrong and the team could retire their numbers first which will automatically put them in the Hall of Fame. However you slice it, all three of those players are worthy of a night to be celebrated.

I do think that there are others who need to be considered for the Islanders Hall of Fame.

Brent Sutter: A member of the last two Islanders Stanley Cup teams, Sutter played 12 seasons with the Isles and is tied with LaFontaine for 5th place on the team’s all-time goals scored list. He is 9th all-time in Islanders history with 694 games played and is 6th in scoring with 610 points.

Charles Wang: Let’s be honest, if it were not for Charles, the Islanders would be playing in another market right now. As a proud Long Islander, he bought the team in 2000 and tried everything in his power to get the Islanders a new building. Not only should he be in the team’s Hall of Fame, but he needs to be recognized in the new Belmont Park Arena because he had been shown the Belmont site after the move to Brooklyn and convinced new owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky to pursue that opportunity. Wang’s family still owns a piece of the Islanders today.

Roy Boe: The first owner of the Islanders and also at one time the owner of the New York Nets, Boe brought NHL hockey to Long Island in 1972. Then in 2001, he was back in the Islanders family when he founded the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the AHL affiliate of the Islanders, an affiliation that is still going strong today.

Jiggs McDonald and Barry Landers: Two legendary and long-time Islanders broadcasters, Jiggs and Barry belong in the team’s Hall of Fame for their distinguished careers with the team. McDonald is already in the Hockey Hall of Fame and is long overdue to be in the Islanders. Hall of Fame.

A look into the rafters shows retired number banners for Mike Bossy-22, Denis Potvin-5, Bryan Trottier-19, Clark Gillies-9, Bobby Nystrom-23, and Billy Smith-31, along with banners for Head Coach Al Arbour’s 1500 games coached and General Manager Bill Torrey’s signature bowtie. Those names are joined in the Islanders Hall of Fame by Eddie Westfall, Kenny Jonsson, Patrick Flatley, Bob Bourne and Ken Morrow.

More names need to join those Islanders legends and that time appears to be drawing closer.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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