John Tonelli and I always got along although I didn’t know him as well as some of the other NHLers. When the New York islanders traded him to Calgary in 1986 we rushed to Long Island to cover the story for Hockey Night in Canada. When our crew arrived at the Nassau County Coliseum we were told that Tonelli was very upset with the deal and that he was not talking to the media, not giving interviews to anyone.
I asked the PR person for the Islanders to go to John and plead with him to make an exception, since we’d some all the way from Toronto. She returned and said, “He’ said all right, he’ll do it for you, Mr. McFarlane.”
John gave me an excellent interview, then packed and left for Calgary.
John had a long and productive career in hockey, beginning in junior with the Toronto Marlboros where he scored 49 goals in his final junior season. In the NHL he played in over 1,000 games and scored 325 goals. He was the MVP of the 1984 Canada Cup and played on four Stanley Cup winning teams–all with the Islanders.
We sat over coffee on Long Island one day and he reminisced about his early days in the game: