Former New York Islanders forward Josh Bailey provided some closure on a transitional offseason, penning a final thank you to the organization and its fans on Wednesday via the Players’ Tribune.
“From playing my first game in the Isles sweater at 19 to my last at 33, it has been quite a ride,” Bailey wrote. “Not always the smoothest of rides, but I wouldn’t change a thing. The tough times make you stronger and allow you to enjoy the good ones that much more, and we had plenty of good ones.”
After 15 seasons with the Islanders, beginning when he was drafted ninth overall in 2008, Bailey was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on June 29 in what brought an end to a 15-season tenure that put him near the top of the organization’s record books.
His 1,057 games played ranked third behind only the legendary Bryan Trottier and Denis Potvin. He also ranks fourth in franchise history with 395 assists and seventh with 580 points.
“Over the past couple of months, there have been quite a few moments that have brought me to a pause,” Bailey wrote. “I think what has hit the hardest is realizing that this chapter has come to an end. All of the things that I love about putting on the Blue and Orange are now just a memory. Although it has made me emotional at times, I will always cherish those memories.”
The Ontario native was also one of the more enigmatic figures within the organization. Despite being highly regarded as a locker room leader with a teeming hockey IQ, he often drew the ire of a fan base that grew impatient with him. He eclipsed the 50-point mark just three times in 15 seasons, averaged 38.6 points per year, and never scored 20 goals in a single campaign.
“I do recall some rather funny moments at the Coliseum,” Bailey wrote. “Some nights, if I was starting, the national anthem could be a vulnerable 90 seconds standing there at the blueline. (I heard it all — the encouragement and the ‘encouragement.’)”
Bailey remains a free agent after the Blackhawks quickly bought him out. He expressed his desire to continue playing after the 2022-23 season that saw him benched down the stretch and through the playoffs.
But when the Islanders take the ice for a new season next month, it will be the first time in a decade and a half it will be without a player who had long been a part of their leadership structure — one that will eventually wind up in the team’s hall of fame, and one who was the subject of a catch remix to DJ Otzi’s “Hey Baby.”
“It has been an honor to live on Long Island, wear the Islander jersey, and help represent this great organization and our fans from all over,” Bailey wrote. “There are so many moments that stand out to me, but none compares to hearing the roar of the crowd after scoring in overtime in the playoffs.
“And of course … hearing you all sing. It still gives me chills to this day. Thank You! Until next time…. Oooh ahhh.”