It was a heavy night on Long Island as the Islanders and their fans packed UBS Arena to not just take in the team’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but to honor Hall of Famer Clark Gillies.
Prior to Saturday night’s game, the Islanders honored Gillies in a special ceremony that coach Barry Trotz said touched him and his players.
“[Gillies] meant a lot and a lot to those guys,” Trotz said after the game. “I can feel the emotion behind the bench as well. [The ceremony] was well done, but just recognizing the person that he was… that’s a big loss for our family.”
Gillies died Friday at the age of 67, leaving the fan base without one of its most beloved players.
In the left wing’s 12 seasons with the Isles, he amassed 304 goals (fourth all time in franchise history) and 663 points (fourth all time in franchise history). However, his greatest contribution to the franchise was being a stalwart during the team’s four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-1983.
Another part of those great 1970s Islander teams was J.P. Parise, who played with Gilles for four seasons. Though not teammates for very long, Gilles’ impact on Parise was felt and the memory of this great Islander was passed down to his son, starting left wing Zach Parise.
“I remember my dad talking about all those teams a lot… bringing up Clark’s name a lot,” Parise said. “I actually got a text from [former Isles goalie] Chico Resch last night telling me about Clark passing and about how Chico sat across from my dad and Clark in the locker room and remembered all the laughs between the three of them.”
Though the pregame ceremony didn’t translate to a win for the Islanders on Saturday night, Gillies will be with this team for the rest of the season in spirit, after they announced Saturday that they will wear a patch donning Gillies' No. 9 on their jerseys.
“It was a nice ceremony for [Gillies] and [there’s] no doubt the impact that he had on the organization here,” Parise said.