Bailey, please lose that number - It belongs to Tonelli

Michael GasparinoCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2008

So it seems that Josh Bailey has a number — 27.

Bailey is wearing the number at the Islanders prospect camp in Syosset.

You know how we feel about No. 27. It should be hanging in the rafters of the Coliseum with TONELLI over it.

Was J.T. a Hall of Fame player? No, but other than the names currently hovering above the ice in Hempstead, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more beloved, harder working, more dynasty-critical player than John Tonelli. He worked the corners, he could score goals, he was a character guy - he was the whole package.

Quick story -- I was working in Manhattan a few years back and our company was relocated down to 28th and Park from Times Square. The first day there, my buddy and I went to a deli across the street for lunch, a real popular place where people lined up for chopped salads (I had a hero, of course).

So we're sitting at a table and in the middle of the line is Tonelli himself. I mention it to my friend, who is about six years younger than me and not a hockey fan at all. He has no clue who Tonelli is. I explain that the guy is my favorite player of all time, and he says I should go up and talk to him.

I've never been one to seek autographs or approach celebrities in public -- I figure they're people leading their lives like the rest of us, so why bother them? My friend says Tonelli is one of those people who is famous only to a select group of fans and is probably not accosted as much as one would think, and that he would probably appreciate someone telling him how much he was admired.

Just as I resolve to head over, Tonelli pays for his lunch and walks out. I figured that maybe he worked in the area and perhaps I would bump into him at lunch again, but I never did, and in my first year in the Blog Box I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting him. But you can be sure that if he's in the house when I am, I'll make a point of saying hello.

And telling him that No. 27 should be on a banner and not anyone else's back (sorry, Josh).