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50 WORDS OR LESS: All Hail J.T.!!!

by Staff Writer / New York Islanders
Tonelli Your Pick for Most Underrated

In our most popular edition of 50 WORDS OR LESS so far, more than 2,000 Islander fans registered their votes for the most underrated Islander of all time. More than 50 Islanders received votes, but it really was no surprise when the beloved John Tonelli finished with the most odes in his honor, 114. Other Islanders receiving strong consideration included Ken Morrow, Brent Sutter and Jason Blake. We even heard from one very passionate Islanders broadcaster, as you can see below. Thanks to everyone who contributed!


Despite his fame from jumping to a Stanley Cup winner just off the"Miracle" from Lake Placid, Ken Morrow's defensive ability and team contribution was overlooked. At a time when the New York Islander team of the early 1980's was considered one of the best sports franchises of all time, Morrow's ability to anchor a defense that balanced the superior offensive talents of Bossy, Trottier, Tonelli, and Potvin was overlooked and underrated.

Eric Blankfein
New York, NY

John Tonelli.  Blake works very hard, but NOBODY dug corners like JT.  In addition to his tireless efforts along the boards and away from the puck, he played a key part of every important goal in team history:  assisted on Bobby Nystrom's Cup winner, scored winning goal to give Isles NHL record 15th straight victory with 47 seconds left vs. Chico, scored both game-tying and winning goals in decisive playoff game 5 vs. Pittsburgh, forced play along boards that led to Morrow's OT winner in decisive game 5 vs. Rangers... I could go on. How he's not in the Hall of Fame baffles me.  Mark my words, the Islanders don't win those four Cups without him.

Anthony Labadie

Pound for pound, inch for inch, best fighter ever. Good for 15 to 20 goals. Wasn't a goon. Extreme intensity and tenacity. Golden and lionhearted. Rarely mentioned by media hockey circles. Traded in 1981. Garry Howatt deserved to be an Islander for 4 Cups, but was denied the chance.

Lawrence Cerrato
Naples, FL

Anders Kallur was a third-line center who knew his place on the team and did his job. Killed penalties and scored big goals late in the game.  His speed, quick thinking and accurate shot made him the Islander's 2nd leading goal scorer in the 1980-1981 season. 

Dominick Santoro
Pleasantville, NY

The most underrated Islander of all time is Gordie Lane.   While playing for the 1976 Washington Capitals, a sportswriter named him the worst player on the worst team ever assembled.  Yet after joining the Isles, his valuable contribution allowed him to put his name on the Stanley Cup four times.

Robert Seperson
Locust Valley

Though his name doesn't hang in the Coliseum yet, without John Tonelli and his two game-tying and winning goals against the Penguins in the 1982 playoffs, we would only have two consecutive Cups instead of 4.

Thomas Catapano
Howard Beach

I became an Islander fan when a fellow Sudbury, Ontario guy got the head coaching job. Al Arbour has never been given his rightful place as one of the best coaches of all time. Great players don't win 4 cups on their own.

Garry Temchuk
Niagara Falls, Ontario

I can't even buy an Oleg Kvasha jersey. It has to be special ordered and he led the team in points last season. He is doing great this season and is becoming a stable player and he is my favorite player.

Vicki DeLuca

How Swede it was to have Stefan Persson. Overshadowed by so many greats during the Dynasty, this rock steady defenseman took care of both ends of the ice with little fanfare. A true class act on and off the ice. Thank you #7!

Steve Pothos

Billy Carroll.  Back in the day the Islanders had the most feared penalty killing unit in the NHL.  Carroll teamed with Butchie Goring or anyone else was a force to be reckoned with in a short-handed situation. If allowed, opponents would have refused the man advantage in certain situations.
Don Schmidt
Broomfield, CO


The most unheralded Islander of all time has to be Jason Blake. With his explosive speed, attention to detail and no quit attitude Blake has given the Islanders a weapon they can use in all situations. His determination, grit and toughness are unmatched and he has the ability to change the game all by himself.

Chris Hogan

No question here.  Kenny Jonsson will be forever known for breaking up  plays in his own zone.  Poke check here, body check, there, no one can stare him down.  His leadership on and off the ice was one not to be argued with.  My vote: KJ.

Matthew Sklaroff
Binghamton, NY


Bob Bourne was, in my opinion, the most underrated islander of all time!  He was probably the fastest skater to ever play for the team, and his end-to-end rush and score against the Rangers is a highlight classic!

Tom Tatarian

Tom Fitzgerald. He scored 2 SH goals on the same penalty kill in the playoffs. That alone should get him the title. He was a very solid player for not only the Isles but other teams as well. The penalty kill felt his loss after he left following the 92-93 miracle run.

Baltimore, MD

Derek King.  He flew under the radar and didn't score as prolifically as Turgeon, Thomas or Hogue but was always involved in every play.  As an Islander draft pick, he was a fan favorite and a workhorse, his game was solid in all aspects.

Brian Flynn

I think the most underrated Islander of all time is Shawn Bates. He can pass, skate, and score. He always works hard and is one of the best penalty killers I have seen. Plus, who can forget that penalty shot!
Michael Leboff
Rockville Centre

In my estimation, Islanders defenseman Gord Lane was the most underrated of all time. Fearless, always ready to come to the help of a teammate, a darn good fighter and even better defenseman. Most experts agree that he was the team's most effective defender during the dynasty era.
Frank Russo
East Brunswick, NJ

We've had great years, terrible years, and under-rated years.  The late eighties were underrated.  A lot of their excitement came from our promising goalie.  After our championships, the greatest game I ever saw was the Washington quadruple overtime.  LaFontaine scored, but Kelly Hrudey was the hero who made it possible.

Paul Till
formerly LI, now Czech Republic

The most underrated Islander of all-time would have to be Chico Resch. Although Smitty, considered the Islanders greatest goaltender, has his number retired in the Coliseum, Resch was the reason the Islanders won as many games as they did during the 1980 season, helping them prevail on the road to Lord Stanley's Cup.
Rick Siemers

Never a goal scorer or all-star, Mick Vukota was an ultimate team player all ten seasons he spent proudly wearing the blue and orange. Mick never hesitated to drop the gloves and was always willing to stand up for a teammate in need. All hail penalty king Mick!

Kara Karter
Dix Hills

Patrick Flatley did everything that didn't show up on a stat sheet. He battled in the corners, he forechecked, he was the heart & soul of a team that he was surrounded by superstars on. And he still managed to put up respectable stats (160G, 328A, 488pts) in the end.
Rick Weiner

Roland Melanson. Smitty was "money" in the playoffs, but Rollie's solid goaltending during the 1981-84 regular seasons was an important part of the dynasty.  Stepping into the beloved Chico's skates, he posted terrific stats -- especially in 1982-83 when he won 24 games with a 2.66 GAA.  We shouldn't forget #1!!!   
Joe Cordaro

This one's easy - John Tonelli. He worked as hard as anyone.  When he went into the corners, you knew he'd come out with the puck. He also had some of the biggest goals of the franchise...Penguins playoff OT...clinching winning streak...His number should be hanging from the rafters.
Mike Gennarelli

When you look at the Islanders today, what may they missing? A tough, rugged yet mobile blueliner. For 500+ games, over 12 seasons, Rich Pilon gave everything he had while he was in an Islander uniform. While he missed a ton of ice time due to injury, he was a stay at home defenseman who stood up to for his teammates - a key ingredient for any Stanley Cup contender.

Ron Amram
Forest Hills

You hear Bossy, Trottier, Smith, Potvin, Nystrom, Gillies, Goring, Tonelli, and Arbour all the time when talking about the Dynasty.  But without Brent Sutter, they don't win 4 cups, and they certainly don't stay competitive through the 80s.  He was one of the most important Islanders... EVER, and yet you rarely hear his name.

Scott Mayer
Jackson, MS

The first name to pop into my head about the most underrated Islander was Stefan Persson. He seemed to be a real steady presence at the blue line. He never really had "that" goal, assist or hit that people can associate with him like Ken Morrow did, but I think he was just as steady and reliable. A real quiet contributer during the Cup years.

Rich Thomann
South Salem, NY

The most underrated NY Isles player ever in my opinion was Brent Sutter. 610 regular season points in 694 games in addition to 59 playoff points in 88 playoff games says it all. Playing in the shadows of the great players of the Stanley Cup Teams of the early 1980's, Sutter joined the team in the 81-82 season and immediately contributed to the success of the team. Sutter was also the first-ever "Islander of the Year" in 1985 and in addition, won the Bob Nystrom Award for Leadership, Determination and Hustle. Well deserved to say the least.
Ken Zagorski
East Patchogue

I know, I'm ineligible for the T-shirt, but I just had to throw in my two cents on behalf of Bert Marshall. This veteran defenseman, with leadership qualities, joined the Islanders in 1973-74, their second season in the NHL, and the first for a couple of kid defensemen named Denis Potvin and Dave Lewis. Paired with Lewis, Bert, in my opinion, greatly accelerated the development of Lewis and Potvin as well as the entire Islander defense corps. Thanks in part to Marshall, the Islanders went to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup semifinal the following year, and were on their way to greatness. Sorry if that's more than 50 words, but you know how loquacious we broadcasters can be.

Howie Rose
Long Island

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