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Watch: Tonelli’s number is retired, Islanders fans turn back the clock

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“J-T!”

Detroit Red Wings v New York Islanders
A grateful Greasy Jet
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Last night was a big one for Islanders fans, and not only because they beat a Red Wings team featuring a Who’s Who of Who’s That to stop a four-game losing streak and gain at least a modicum of stability in their chase for the playoffs.

Prior to the game, the team formally retired the number of a player who’s remained a fan favorite even three decades after he left via trade.

John Tonelli’s number going to the Nassau Coliseum rafters is something a lot of people, including myself, never thought they’d see in their lifetime. Not only did it happen, but the ceremony staged by the organization was absolutely perfect, and brought a real closure to the career of one of the greatest players in team history.

You can watch the full show here, courtesy of MSG Networks.

A couple of highlights include appearances by five of the six other Islanders with retired numbers (Mike Bossy sent a video message), Tonelli making a heartfelt mention of current Islanders captain and fellow No. 27 Anders Lee, as well as shouting out his 89-year-old mom and her meatballs.

But the zenith of the show was fans bursting out in impromptu chants of “J-T! J-T!” just like in the old days, when Tonelli ruled the corners of the Coliseum. The “Original JT” got choked up a few times and was visibly overwhelmed by the whole thing, making the event even more endearing.

[Two unrelated side notes: 1. With just his jersey on, Noah Dobson looks like a choir boy; and 2. I say this every time I see him, but holy cow, Bob Nystrom is friggin’ jacked. A couple of his old teammates are clearly walking on knees made out of popsicle sticks, meanwhile Mr. Islander looks like he can still play at 67-years-old. What a damn machine.]

Congrats again to Tonelli for this long overdue honor. And congrats to the Islanders and MSG for putting on a great ceremony. You know what, why don’t we do it again soon? Like, say, next week? How does that sound? Cool.