Whether it’s Tonelli-to-Nystrom, Bobby Orr flying through the air, or watching Ray Bourque finally lift the Cup, the most iconic hockey moments are born in the playoffs.
Before the New York Islanders were professionals, they were fans glued to their TV’s, watching and idolizing the likes of Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic.
Everyone has their own top playoff memory, though Johnny Boychuk, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck all share one – Yzerman’s Game Seven OT winner against the St. Louis Blues in 1996.
“It was just a sick shot, a slap shot too,” Boychuk said. “It was probably one of the hardest shots I’ve ever seen. I can still see that shot. That was a rocket. That’s my favorite shot.”
“The Stevie Y goal in St. Louis when he came over the blue line, that’s probably one of the best shots I’ve seen in my entire life,” Cizikas said.
Clutterbuck is a self-described Joe Sakic fan, even though Yzerman’s winner stands out. He wasn’t the only one, either. Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin were both Colorado Avalanche fans growing up and Okposo didn’t even need to think about his favorite moment. He cited Uwe Krupp’s triple-OT, Stanley Cup clinching goal in Game Four of the 1996 Finals.
“That’s my best memory,” Okposo said without hesitation. “The Colorado Avalanche were my favorite team. It was their first year in the league, but they had a heck of a team and won the Cup.”
Martin’s defining playoff moment was less specific, as his encompassed the team’s intense rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings.
“The memories are from the Colorado-Detroit series with all the brawls,” he said. “Claude Lemieux, Darren McCarty, Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood. Those series’ turned me into an Avalanche fan.”
Those memories go way back, but none went further than John Tavares, who’s favorite playoff memory was one of his first – watching the Toronto Maple Leafs reach the 1993 Western Conference Finals against the LA Kings.
“One of my earliest memories watching hockey with my dad,” Tavares said. “When the Leafs went to the conference finals against LA in 1993. I was only three-years-old, but I remember being on the couch in his arms and watching those games.”
Josh Bailey also grew up a Leafs fan, but his favorite playoff memory was the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, when the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Calgary Flames in seven games.
“It was a heck of a series,” Bailey said. “There were a few close calls, a couple of OT games and a Game Seven. My buddies and I would play ball hockey and pretend we were those guys, going head-to-head.”
Brock Nelson’s most memorable playoff moment was perhaps one of the most controversial calls in Stanley Cup history. Nelson remembers watching Brett Hull’s Stanley Cup clinching goal, where he appeared to have his skate in the crease – an automatic no-goal in 1999.
“That sticks out, the controversial skate in the crease,” Nelson said. “It was just really exciting.”
For better or for worse, the Stanley Cup playoffs create lasting memories. The Islanders are still the biggest hockey fans you’ll meet, but now they get to live out some of those moments that will become lasting memories.