Josh Bailey has never been one to stray from the task that’s directly in front of him. It’s what makes him such an intellectual hockey player that has been a fixture of the New York Islanders for the last 15 seasons.
It’s also what has made him as level-headed a hockey player as you’ll find. Not much else matters outside of the opening face-off and final buzzer. But the momentous occasion on Friday night in Carolina is providing a moment of pause and appreciation even for a veteran leader that has done nothing but put his team first for the last decade and a half.
The Islanders’ matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes will be the 1,000th game in Bailey’s career, becoming just the third player in franchise history to reach that mark and the 73rd player in NHL history to do so with just one organization.
“My wife and I have talked about it throughout the summer. I’m not someone who thinks too far down the road but now you can’t help as it approaches to think about it,” Bailey said. “I think it’ll be an emotional night in a good way.”
The festivities are coming in delayed fashion. A benching for Saturday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning pushed his 1,000th game from what would have been Wednesday night at home against the Rangers to Friday’s tilt in Raleigh. He made Game No. 999 count all the same, scoring his first goal of the season in the Islanders’ 3-0 rivalry-night victory.
Regardless, Bailey’s family will be in attendance as he continues to embed his name into team lore as a future Islanders Hall of Famer —a fact that has often divided the fan base.
In some moments, they’ll serenade the winger with a remix of the song “Hey Baby!” that now goes “Hey Josh Bailey!”
In other moments they’ll make their dissatisfaction known — especially on social media.
“From my perspective, it’s always been great,” Bailey said on his relationship with the fans. “Yeah, I’ve heard the occasional thing on the ice but that’s all a part of it. I’ve learned early that you’re not going to please everybody so there’s no point in trying. I just tried to stick to being who I am and approach things the same way no matter what.”
The 33-year-old has never been one for panache. A studious brand of hockey has seen him carve out a niche as a leader whose wheelhouse is playing the supporting role. He’s never posted more than 18 goals in a season and eclipsed the 50-point mark just three times. However, longevity is something that should be celebrated. Especially in a grueling game like hockey.
“It’s incredible actually that he is approaching that,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “He means so much to the organization for so many years. In terms of the player that he is, he’s a cerebral player, he’s a smart player. You can trust him, you can count on him… A lot of the things that he does aren’t noticed as much as us coaches notice them, but he’s a very valuable guy from that standpoint.”
Only Hall of Famers Bryan Trottier and Denis Potvin have played more games for the Islanders than Bailey. The three of them are also the only players in franchise history to appear in 15 seasons with the team.
He ranks fourth in franchise history with 379 assists and eighth with 556 points, just 10 behind Pat LaFontaine for seventh.
He’s the only Islanders skater that didn’t appear during the organization’s dynasty run of four straight Stanley Cup victories from 1980-1983 that has at least 50 playoff points.
And there’s no organization that he would have rather done it for.
“This has been home for a long time now. I’ve lived a majority of my life here,” Bailey said. “My kids were born here. My wife and I love it here. It’s been an honor to wear the jersey for this many years and hopefully, there’s more to go.”