Wednesday, April 8, 2015

1978-79 New York Islanders Denis Potvin Jersey

Denis Potvin was drafted by the New York Islanders with the first overall selection in the 1973 NHL Entry Draft and the Montreal Canadiens immediately offered New York a package of established players in exchange for him. Thinking long-term, Islanders general manager Bill Torrey turned down the offer, keeping the man who would eventually become the longest serving captain in franchise history.

Following his final season of Canadian junior hockey 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 immediately establish himself as a NHL caliber player by appearing 77 games, the final one of which saw Potvin score a goal and three assists to establish NHL rookie records for defensemen with 17 goals, 54 assists and 71 points in a 4-2 win over the Minnesota North Stars. He also displayed his toughness with 175 penalty minutes, all of which earned him the Calder Trophy as the Rookie of the Year.

Potvin Islanders, Potvin Islanders

In addition to his standout defense, his offensive numbers would continue to climb, when he scored 76 points during 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 as the NHL's best defenseman.

Potvin Islanders, Potvin Islanders

Three seasons later, during the Islanders final game of the 1978-79 season played on this date in 1979, Potvin would be credited with an assist at 16:59 of the first period on a goal by Wayne Merrick to give him his 100th point of the season, making him only the second defenseman in NHL history to score 100 points in a season since Orr in 1975.

Potvin later earned another assist at 16 seconds of the third period on a goal by Mike Bossy to finish the season with 31 goals and 70 assists for 101 total points, all career highs. He would later be named to his third Norris Trophy, having also been named the winner in 1978 as well. He was also the first defenseman to score 30 goals since Orr as well.

Potvin Islanders, Potvin Islanders

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 as Stanley Cup champions for the next three consecutive seasons, all with Potvin as the captain.

Potvin Islanders Cup, Potvin Islanders Cup

All told, Potvin competed in an astounding 34 playoff rounds over ten consecutive seasons with the Islanders playing at their peak, the rough equivalent of two additional seasons worth of games - but played at the highest levels of pressure and emotion.

When he retired after the 1987-88 season, Potvin did so as the all-time NHL leader in goals and points by a defenseman.

His final career totals stand at 1,060 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.

Potvin was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991 and his #5 was retired by the Islanders the following year, the first Islander to ever be so honored, 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.

Potvin Sucks jersey, Potvin Sucks jersey
A Rangers jersey immortalizing the "Potvin Sucks!" chant

Today's featured jersey is a 1978-79 New York Islanders Denis Potvin jersey as worn the season he became only the second defenseman in NHL history to score 100 points in a season.

The original Islanders jerseys had orange numbers, which were changed to white for Potvin's rookie season. This style would remain unchanged until 1977-78 when the white ends of the sleeves were made blue, the original lace-up collar was changed to a v-neck and two color names were added to the backs of the jerseys.

The following year saw the waist stripes change from a wide orange above a wide white, separated by a thin blue stripe, to a narrower white stripe above an orange stripe with no blue separation. Additionally, the single orange sleeve stripes were changed to the same pattern as the new waist striping pattern. This style would remain through the 1994-95 season, carrying them through their four Stanley Cup championships and beyond until replaced by the ill-advised and poorly received  Fishsticks jerseys of the mid-90's.

This first generation of Islanders jerseys 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 lace up collar as originally worn in 1972, and then promoted that alternate to again be the team's primary jersey beginning with the 2010-11 season.

New York Islanders 1978-79 jersey photo New York Islanders 1978-79 F jersey.jpg
New York Islanders 1978-79 jersey photo New York Islanders 1978-79 B jersey.jpg

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.

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