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Hey 'Mr. 900'

As Josh Bailey plays in his 900th-career game, his teammates and coach share their appreciation for him as a player and a person

by Sasha Kandrach @KandrachSasha /

On Saturday night, Josh Bailey went about his business - quietly and thoroughly - just as he always does, because that's the kind of humble, disciplined and detailed professional he truly is. 

While Bailey's focus was on the New York Islanders taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins in a crucial tilt between the two East Division foes - which unfortunately ended 6-3 in favor of the Pens - the reality is that he reached an important and impressive personal milestone. 

The 31-year-old winger, who the Islanders selected ninth overall back in 2008, skated in his 900th career game. In doing so, Bailey joined some hefty company as he became just the fourth player in franchise history to eclipse 900-career games, all played while sporting the Islanders crest. He'll continue his ascent in franchise standings as he tied Bobby Nystrom for third in all-time games played; only behind the likes of Hockey Hall of Famers Bryan Trottier 1,123 and Denis Potvin 1,060. 

It was a special night for No. 12 and a proud one for the organization and the faithful fans of Long Island, who are never shy at the chance to passionately chant the 'Hey Josh Bailey' song.  

Tweet from @NYIslanders: Tonight Josh Bailey becomes the fourth Islander in #Isles history to play in 9������0������0������ NHL GAMES! Congrats Bailey, many more to come. 🥳

"What I've learned with Josh is that I've probably under-appreciated the whole package," Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz said of Bailey. "Now, that I've been here for a while, I understand the whole package now. To me, he's a tremendous leader. He's one of those quiet leaders. He's in the community, he's a family guy. There's a lot of guys that - they don't demand a lot of respect, but they get a lot of respect - and he's one of them. He's one that gets a lot in our room. Sometimes he goes under the radar."

Maintaining a level of incognito is almost instinctual for the Bowmanville, Ontario native. So much so, that Bailey's quiet, but ruminative demeanor often reflects in his discreet, but brilliant playmaking abilities. 

Over the course of his 14-year NHL career spent on the Island, he has amassed 495 points (159G, 336A) in the regular season and totaled 37 points (10G, 27A) in 52 postseason contests. And while he isn't one to flaunt a garish game, his teammates - especially those like Cal Clutterbuck - have been fortunate enough to witness Bailey's ingenious and chess-like hockey intellect on the ice first-hand. Also, his tremendous qualities as a leader and a genuine individual, day-in and day-out for years.   

"He's very understated, his game is understated," Clutterbuck said. "I don't think you gain an appreciation for what he's able to do out there unless you're with him every day. As a friend, as a person I've spent a lot of time with him over the last decade. He's one of my closest friends and is everything you could ask for in a buddy, in a person, in a friend and a teammate. Nothing but good things to say about Josh."

Conversely, even those like veteran defenseman Andy Greene - who, prior to joining the Islanders from New Jersey last February, had been tasked with the challenge of going head-to-head against Bailey - have gained an appreciation for the kind of elite player and more importantly, the outstanding person that Bailey is. 

"I knew he was a really good player, but I didn't know he was this good," Greene said. "He's very sneaky, he works extremely hard and he's got very good hockey sense and very good deception. He knows the areas to get to, he goes the hard areas. He's an extremely complete player. It's been a really good pleasure to be able to get to know him personally and then obviously, playing with him too."

As a leader, Bailey has earned the utmost trust from his coaching staff and unwavering respect from his teammates, whom he calls family. While Bailey's authority is often delegated through his honorable actions and distinguished professionalism, he has the special ability to leave his audience clinging onto every word. 

"Off the ice, he's not a big speaker," Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. "But when he speaks, you know it's going to be something important and intelligent coming out of his mouth. We have a lot of respect for him."

Pageau, who is just three years Bailey's minor, didn't hold back on calling Bailey a role model. And for the influx of youth that has gradually integrated into the nightly lineup and continues to emerge, Bailey has been one of the cornerstone members of the franchise that they have and consistently continue to look up to. 

"You always kind of forget that [Bailey] has been around for such a long time," 23-year-old winger Anthony Beauvillier said. "He's been around for what, over 10 years? He's just such a great guy to be around. Everything he does seems to be right. When you look [Bailey], that's who you want to be."

While Saturday's outcome wasn't ideal, it was still a special night to honor - and deservingly shine the spotlight - on Bailey's achievement.

"He's such a huge part of this organization," Matt Martin said. "He seems to always show up in the biggest moments, as we saw last year in the playoffs. It's a long, long time to spend with one organization. He's earned that. Hopefully, he's got many more games in him. He's a big piece of our team and one of the better playmakers that I've played with. He's just a solid two-way player who always puts the team in front of himself."

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