Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will become the second team, besides the New Jersey Devils, to make a return-visit to UBS Arena at Belmont Park.
The New York Islanders—well, hockey players wearing their uniforms, anyway; it was only about half an NHL lineup—hosted the Leafs in only the second game in their new home. Because half the Islanders’ regulars were out of the lineup, whether due to covid or injury, Toronto easily shut out New York, 3-0.
But First, Clark Gillies
Unfortunately, when the teams line up tonight, the Islanders will still be in mourning. Clark Gillies, the Hockey Hall of Famer and legendary power forward of the dynastic Islanders of the 1970s and 80s, passed away yesterday at the too-young age of 67. The team made the announcement right at the conclusion of last night’s win over the Arizona Coyotes.
The rest of this season will likely be played in Gillies’ honor. Indeed, soon-to-be 45-year-old Zdeno Chara is the only player on the Islanders’ roster to have been born before the Islanders franchise won any Stanley Cups (Andy Greene was eight months old when the Isles won their final Cup). But Gillies, perhaps more than any other dynasty Islander not named Butch Goring, embraced the franchise and Long Island during and well beyond the end of his playing days.
He met with and spoke with probably every regular Islander in that dressing room, especially the ones that have been here a while; you can hear it in their voices. He always rooted for the Islanders, and I’d bet that he went to probably every Islanders home playoff game since he retired. And he made Long Island his home.
I am too young to have seen Gillies play. I was not fortunate enough to meet him other than saying “hello” to him passing by in the Coliseum. That being said, his love of the Islanders, despite all the turmoil and embarrassment they went through after his retirement, always struck me. His love of the team culminated in him frequently attending this past year’s Coliseum-closing playoff run, during which he provided us with an amazing beer-crushing video from Game 4 against the Boston Bruins.
We didn’t post Bits this morning. Today is a day of mourning in Isles Nation, and many LHHers, current and past, just wanted to mourn their hero. But there is a game tonight, and the current Isles are going to do it for Clarkie. We should, too. So we have a quick hit of news before the game for you to peruse at your leisure.
- FIGs for tonight go here. Remember, puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. tonight, not 7:30 p.m.
- Here’s are the Keys to tonight’s game. Oh yeah, John Tavares is back. [Islanders]
- Dan penned two excellent tributes to Gillies. [LHH | LHH]
- Some quotes from the current Isles about Gillies’ death. [Newsday]
- A nice collection of memories
- And a nice tribute about Gillies’ love of Long Island from Mark Herrmann, who also reveals that Gillies battled prostate cancer a few years ago and his stomach was perforated during surgery. [Newsday]
About last night:
- There was a game last night, and the Islanders won handily. Ilya Sorokin shut out the ‘Yotes for the second time this season. [LHH]
- Which means that the Islanders did not allow a single goal in their two-game season series with Arizona. Sure, Arizona’s awful, but that’s still impressive. [3 Takeaways]
- It’s the Isles’ third straight win at UBS Arena. They’re 7-1-1 in their last 9 games. That’ll play. [Newsday]
Let’s Play Hockey
It won’t be easy, I’m sure, for the Islanders to forget about Gillies tonight. But I’m sure that they’ll play their hearts out for him; that’s what he would have wanted. He loved watching the Islanders win.
#9, Clark Gillies.— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 22, 2022
Always in our hearts. pic.twitter.com/JmO05Ka3Wg