Denis Potvin





The Champs

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Denis Potvin

The original Islander superstar who could crush opponents with a shot from the point or with a devastating hip check... one of the greatest defensemen ever, with three Norris trophies and the Hall of Fame among his many credits... third on Isles' all-time scoring list with 1,052 points on 310 goals and 742 assists... in 185 playoff games, scored 56 goals and 108 assists for 164 points... played in 1,060 regular-season games over 15 seasons... one of the top 50 players of all time, according to The Hockey News... is now a broadcaster for the Florida Panthers.

"I remember dreaming about carrying the cup and watching Jean Beliveau do it for the Montreal Canadiens," Potvin is quoted as saying at the NHLPA Web site. "That was my team growing up. And being able to do it with the New York Islanders was a culmination of all the dreams that I had as a kid."

What was it like when the dream came true? "The first thing I thought of was that it was heavier than I thought it was going to be! I don't know if I was tired or what the deal was. But I was full of emotion and when I went over and picked up the Cup, I just wanted to hang on to it for a few minutes and skate with it for a little bit and just kind of go through the dream I had had since I was a kid."

Potvin is often asked which championship was sweeter, and he compares the experience to having several children. "They're all God's gift and they're all wonderful and they're all different, and the same thing happened with the Stanley Cup," he told the NHLPA. "Each and every cup was very different in the way that we got there and the same effort was needed, obviously. But every cup had its own different characteristics and personality. The first one, obviously, means more because of the fact that it is the first one. And it's one that will always stick in your mind. The other ones, it's not like you're expecting to win, but you know that you've got a shot at it and you've been there before. So the emotions and all that you feel are somewhat anticipated."

Potvin also reminisced to the New York Post about the dynasty years, especially about the Islanders not getting the recognition they deserved. Although the Rangers' streak without a Stanley Cup championship was approaching 50 years as the Islander dynasty reached its peak, the blueshirts -- and New York City -- cast a long shadow.

"The one thing we were always cognizant of was being classified as a suburban team; we weren't a real New York team," Potvin was quoted as saying. "And I'm not knocking Long Island, not in the slightest, but I think the perception of what we did would be far different if we were one of the Original Six, playing in Boston or Chicago... or Manhattan.

"In New York we're up against Joe DiMaggio, Joe Namath, the '69 Mets, and everything historic that's happened in the City. But in hockey, in this millenium, we're the best ever. What we did... winning 19 straight series, it was never done before and it will never be done again."

Here's what Potvin had to say during a June 1997 chat with fans on ESPN's Web site about his career, the Dynasty years, and today's game:

Q: How does it make you feel when you hear us still chanting "Potvin sucks" at the Garden so many years after your retirement? Is it somewhat flattering?

A: At the moment it is more flattering than anything else. It is very non-threatening but it was not always that way. The Garden did a good job of getting rid of the fans that threw things at us.

Q: You have set so many records and won a lot of awards. Is there one that means the most to you?

A: I think all athletes that are blessed with receiving individual awards will tell you that a team championship is the most rewarding award to win. I have four Cup rings.

Q: You are the greatest. I think the Isles of the late 70s and early 80s were the best teams ever to lace 'em up. Do you agree? And which was your favorite Stanley Cup win?

A: Yes, I agree. The record to match is to win 19 consecutive playoffs series. That is what we did and until some team does that and dominates over a five-year period, I think our teams will always be, in my opinion, the best that ever played.

My preference for a favorite Cup win is hard. It is like asking me which of my children I like best. The wins all have a different meaning. Each team was a little different and we shared the wins with different teammates.

Q: Do you still stay in touch with your old teammates?

A: Yes I do. I see Bryan Trottier in Pittsburgh. Billy Smith is here with the Panthers as is Duane Sutter. And I see the guys on Long Island quite often.

Q: Have you noticed a difference in terms of style of play between the mid '80s, when your team was in its heyday and now in the playoffs?

A: I think that the neutral zone has become more of a land mine area more than every before. Teams attack defensively. The defensive wall starts at the blue line. In the 80s we had more room to create speed in the neutral zone. I also believe there was less man-to-man coverage. We played more zone.

Q: What are the main differences in the game now and when you played? Is it the equipment, goaltending or coaching and conditioning?

A: I thinking coaching, on average, has really become a more defined art form. Seldom did you have more than one coach behind the bench in the 70s. Now you see three and sometimes four coaches in the box. Also, the size of the players is a big difference. Between then and now the average weight has gone up 10 pounds. I think video tape has made a big difference too in helping teams prepare for each other.

Q: What do you think of fighting in the NHL today?

A: I think it is harmless. You have more designated fighters than ever. It rarely has an impact on the outcome of the game. But I would certainly leave it in the game.

Q: Who was your hero when you were growing up?

A: It was Jean Beliveau, captain of the Montreal Canadiens. When I raised my first Cup in 1980, I had a vision of Beliveau raising the Cup for the Canadiens.

Here's more from Potvin on the 1980-81, 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons.

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