Tuesday, November 1, 2011
On this date in 1987 the New York Islanders Denis Potvin played in his 1000th NHL game.
Potvin was drafted by the Islanders first overall in the 1973 NHL Entry Draft and immediately the Montreal Canadiens offered a package of established players in exchange for Potvin. Thinking long-term, Islanders general manager Bill Torrey turned down the offer, keeping the man who would eventually become their longest serving captain in franchise history.
Following his final season in juniors for the Ottawa 67's when he had 123 points and 232 penalty minutes in just 61 games on defense, Islander fans were expecting much from the rookie, who suffered the pressure from comparisons to Bobby Orr.
Potvin's first campaign saw him play 77 games and score 54 points and added an element of toughness with 175 penalty minutes and earn the Calder Memorial Trophy.
In addition to his standout defense, his offensive numbers would continue to climb, with 76 points in his second season followed by a jump to 98 in 1975-76, beginning a run of seven straight seasons of averaging over a point per game, a season that would see him earn the first of three Norris Trophies.
Three seasons later, in 1978-79, he would have the finest offensive season of his career with 31 goals, 70 assists and 101 points, all career highs, and he would win his third Norris Trophy, having also been named the winner in 1978 as well. He was the first defenseman to score 30 goals and 100 points since Orr in 1975.
Still, the best was yet to come for the Islanders and Potvin, who was named team captain in time for the 1979-80 season. Deep playoff runs in the previous five seasons gave the club experience that they put to good use, capturing the Stanley Cup first in 1980 and then earning the "dynasty" tag by repeating the feat three more seasons in a row, all with Potvin as the captain.
All told, Potvin competed in an astounding 34 playoff rounds in ten consecutive seasons while the Islanders were at their peak, the rough equivalent of two additional seasons worth of games, only played at the highest levels of pressure and emotion.
When he retired after the 1987-88 season, he did so as the NHL leader in goals and points by a defenseman. His final career totals stand at 1060 games played with 310 goals and 742 assists for 1052 points. He also retired with as the career playoff leader in goals (56), assists (108) and points (164) for a defenseman.
His #5 was retired by the Islanders in 1992, the first Islander to ever have his number retired. Prior to that he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991, but perhaps his most enduring legacy might be the "Potvin sucks!" chants that continue to this day in Madison Square Garden, home of the rival New York Rangers.
Today's featured jersey is a 1987-88 New York Islanders Denis Potvin jersey as worn the season he played in his 1000th game on this date.
This jersey style is truly "the jersey that wouldn't die", as the Islanders have tried again and again to redesign their jerseys, first with disastrous results in 1996, before returning with an updated version in 1998. Even after the league wide change to Reebok jerseys in 2007, the Islanders again reintroduced this style as an alternate in 2008, this time with a tie-neck collar as originally worn in 1972, and then promoted that alternate to once more be the team's primary jersey beginning with the 2010-11 season.
First today is a profile of Potvin from the fantastic "Legends of Hockey" series. Love him or hate him, this is well worth watching.
Here is the dramatic finish to the Islanders first Stanley Cup Championship in 1980.
Finally the origin of the "Potvin Sucks!" chant.