Moments after their 4-0 win over the Coyotes at UBS Arena tonight, the Islanders announced the devastating news that Clark Gillies, four-time Stanley Cup champion, former Islanders captain and all around Long Island legend, has passed away at 67.
The team’s statement opens with a paragraph that only starts to scratch the surface of the player and the man “Jethro” was, and what he meant to the franchise.
“The entire Islanders community is devastated by the loss of Clark Gillies,” Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello said. “He epitomized what it means to be a New York Islander. The pride he felt wearing the Islanders sweater on the ice was evident by his willingness to do anything to win. Off the ice, he was just as big of a presence, always taking the time to give back to the local community. The New York Islanders have four Stanley Cups because of the sacrifices he and the members of those dynasty teams made for the franchise. On behalf of the entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to the entire Gillies family.”
The accolades are easy to rattle off. First round pick, four Stanley Cups, 19 straight playoff series victories, 304 goals, 663 points, captain for two seasons, number retirement, Hockey Hall of Fame.
But there was so much more. A “power forward” before the concept even existed, an Islander since the team’s third year of existence, a former prospect of the Houston Astros, one of the most feared NHL fighters of the 1970’s, founder of the Clark Gillies Foundation for helping children, one of the funniest hockey storytellers of any time, and a man who came to Long Island from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and made it his home for the rest of his life.
A constant presence at Islanders games, team events, golf outings, charity functions, fan locations and just generally all over The Island, it was damn near impossible to not run into Clark Gillies somewhere. The guy clearly loved being an Islander, long after his playing career ended. He was as generous, funny and caring in person as he was intimidating on the ice. This from last Spring will never not be legendary.
Everyone has a Clark Gillies story. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at a live Isles Seat podcast event about six years ago, and got to hear him hold court while telling hilarious stories sitting alongside Brian Compton and Justin Bourne, his son-in-law and son of fellow legend Bob Bourne. I couldn’t possibly forget this entire incredible evening.
Here’s the fight he talks about.
The tributes will no doubt continue for a long time. Gillies was a key part of an Islanders team that meant a lot to many, many people. From fans to writers to other NHLers.
Matt Martin said after meeting Clark Gillies, he always wanted to be like him. "He just represents everything being a New York Islander is."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 22, 2022
This one hurts. Gillies was as tough as they come but could play, too, and he was always insightful during interviews. Condolences to his family. https://t.co/WiEXn1Wu3a— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) January 22, 2022
#9 never lost a fight until tonight. He was an incredible friend and a legend both on and off the ice. Clark was known as a fierce competitor, but his heart and COURAGE will keep our hearts smiling forever. RIP pic.twitter.com/T41xAE1ays— CiC Foundation (@CiC16foundation) January 22, 2022
A mountain…no, bigger. There is no one bigger or greater than Clark Gillies. A devastating loss for the Islander nation. God speed Jethro. @NYIslanders @HockeyHallFame #clarkgillies https://t.co/QlkxI3PBhk— RICHARD TORREY (@richtorrey) January 22, 2022
My heart is broken on passing of Big Jethro. What an amazing player. A big teddy bear who protected his cubs with a mama bear’s vengeance. Never really liked to fight but man could he ever. So many fond memories with the big man. I will miss you friend. Save me a seat in the box! https://t.co/HHuGMe2770— Kerry Fraser (@kfraserthecall) January 22, 2022
Oh this is so sad…what an amazing man, kind, big laugh always welcoming to those of us that came to the Island after their great teams. Rest In Peace Clark https://t.co/O05rz7JAsj— Ray Ferraro (@rayferrarotsn) January 22, 2022
"When you saw Clark Gillies, you thought Islander" - Barry Trotz pic.twitter.com/c9mBUE2C6H— Islanders Videos (@SNY_Islanders) January 22, 2022
Clark Gillies was a one of a kind. He set the standard for a type of player every team wants and is still constantly looking for. Tough, talented and simply unafraid of anything. But he also set the standard for what a franchise player should be. Drafted and developed in house, a key part of championship glory, a bridge to new generations and a man who truly loved the team and its home. You can’t ask for anything more from anyone.
RIP Jethro. Sincerest condolences to his family from all of us.
“Clark always went out of his way to welcome players into the organization. I think he epitomizes what it means to be an Islander. I remember when I met him for the first time, I always thought ‘that’s who I want to be when I grow up.’”— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 22, 2022
Martin & Lee ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/XN3tNTCJwg