The New York Islanders have been very selective with which jerseys they retire, but, it was announced on Wednesday that both Butch Goring and John Tonelli’s numbers will be retired later this season. They will become the seventh and eighth players to have their numbers lifted into the rafters. While Goring’s No. 91 is not occupied after the departure of former captain John Tavares, Tonelli is allowing Anders Lee to finish his career with No. 27 before it is retired for good.
The ceremonies will both take place within eight days of each other. Tonelli’s number will go to the rafters on Feb. 21 before the Islanders’ game against the Detroit Red Wings, and Goring will get his night on Feb. 29 before a game with the Boston Bruins.
For many young Islander fans, they most remember Tonelli for setting up Bobby Nystrom for the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Final. However, Tonelli’s career with the New York had a lot of other memorable moments where he was a part of the team’s record-setting four straight Stanley Cups.
“I am just so excited and full of grateful emotion,” said Tonelli. “I have been excited since the time Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky took over the team and what they have done by hiring Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz. I am very humbled to have this happen to me.”NHL.com
Tonelli was drafted by the Islanders and spent his first eight seasons playing on Long Island. He reached the 20-goal plateau during the 1980-81 season and accomplished that feat the next six years. His career-high in goals came in 1984-85, when he scored 42.
Tonelli scored one of 34 Islanders’ overtime goals, and one of the franchise’s seven series-clinching goals in Game 5 of the Division Semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins to advance the Islanders to a matchup with the New York Rangers. He finished with 28 goals in the playoffs the Islanders and his career with 325 goals and 836 points. He went on to play for the Calgary Flames before playing with the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, and Quebec Nordiques.
March 9, 1980 will always go down as one of the greatest days in Islanders’ history – the club acquired Goring from the Kings for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis that day. While Goring initially signed a long term deal to stay with the Kings, he turned out to be the missing piece for New York after some early playoff losses in the 1970’s.
While Goring didn’t necessarily play top-line minutes, the Islanders arguably would not have had the success they did if it wasn’t for him. He scored 87 goals in his career with the Islanders and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1981 in their win over the Minnesota North Stars. He scored 10 goals and had 20 points during the playoffs that season.
Goring, most notably known for his unique helmet, ended up playing in 99 career playoff games with the Islanders during their 19-straight playoff series victories. Nearly 15 years after he finished playing, Goring was brought back as the head coach from 1999-2001, then started working with Howie Rose to broadcast Islander games. He remains in a broadcasting role with Brendan Burke for MSG Network.
“It’s been hard me to grasp what’s happened here,” said Goring. “It’s something I have been hoping for, but until this day, it never happened. It’s one of the best days I have been that I have been able to live.”
Goring and Tonelli will be joining Hall of Famers Billy Smith, Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy as well as Bobby Nystrom in the rafters.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.