Just thinking about it, a half-century-plus one is a long time but, compared to the birth of radio, it was only yesterday

However, 1972 marked the birth of the Islanders and with the new National Hockey League team, it inevitably also brought along major league stickhandling over the airwaves, both television and radio.

For now, this space will deal with radio since there's so much to write about TV that The Maven will devote a separate essays to that form of coverage as the offseason rolls along.

For starters, let me point out that the brand of hockey played in 72-73 was a lot different than today's high-speed game. Likewise, the radio broadcasts were just as different as those expertly brought to you these nights by Chris King and Greg Picker. 

The original Isles' radio team featured Al Albert on play by play with Jack DeCelles as the color commentator.

Al was one of the three Albert broadcasting brothers with Marv the senior and the most well-known and Steve, the Junior member of the trio. I had known Marv since he'd been a senior at Abraham Lincoln High School and later Syracuse University. 

"I want You to listen to my tapes," were Marv's first words to me in what became a long friendship and later partnership on MSG Networks news shows.

When Marv got his first gigs doing Rangers games, I suggested that he listen to the legendary Canadian play by play fellow, Foster Hewitt. Marv obliged and when we next met, I asked how he liked Hewitt. To paraphrase him, Marv shot back, "I can do it better."

History proves he did; but in his own way. The same held for Al Albert with whom I soon became pals around the time he inaugurated the Isles radio games. (Al and I became partners years later for one season doing Devils TV for SportsChannel and I loved every game of it.)

I daresay that although he didn't get much publicity -- Marv got the most -- Al was as good a hockey play-by-play guy as his older brother. Jack DeCelles, Al's first color commentator, was equally as good and, frankly, I thought he'd go far and I was very disappointed when he exited the hockey airwaves.

At the very beginning, the games on radio were split between WNBC and WHN, the latter then known for being one of the Met Area's best sports carriers. Albert did the second year as well but -- likely because of financial constraints -- Al had to do the color as well.

During the Isles first playoff season, 74-75 a new radio team had moved behind the microphone.

WMCA -- "First On Your Dial" -- was the carrier with the team of Dom Valentine and Jim Garvey. To be perfectly honest, I don't recall much about them and will move on to 75-76.

This was a career-changing year for The Maven since it marked my first season doing Islanders TV, with Spencer Ross (but that's for another chapter). By radio standards, it was a monumental campaign as well because of the warbling duet involved John Sterling -- later the voice of the Yankees -- and Bob Lawrence.

"Bob was like Mister Nice Guy," Sterling once told me and that was as good a description of his sidekick's personality as anything. But Lawrence also knew his pucks and, for three seasons -- through 1977-78 -- the pair created an identity that no one on Islanders radio previously offered.

"What made Sterling so special," said longtime fan Noam Kogen, "was the expressions he created. The kind the fans got to love in a hurry."

By far the most penetrating words came over the radio when the Orange and Blue lit the red light: "ISLANDERS GOAL! ISLANDERS GOAL!! ISLANDERS GOAL!!!"

Sterling: "I wanted it to be a special call and it was pretty clear that it caught on for the three years I worked the games." 

After Sterling left, the franchise tried two seasons of TV-radio simulcasts with Bob Lawrence handling the play-by-pay. During the fateful 1978-79 year -- oh, that disappointing playoff loss to the Rangers -- Bob handled the whole shebang. A year later he had a fresh associate and, arguably, the best moved into the sidecar -- Jean (Call me Johnny) Potvin.

One of the most popular Islanders of all-time, defenseman Jean -- Hall of Famer Denis Potvin's older brother -- had retired from a playing career as a Stanley Cup-winner and in 1979-80 worked Lawrence's last season handling the Isles radio.

"Johnny," was unique. He had been admired as a player, which was a good jumping off point, and he knew The Game inside out and sideways.

"Jean brought with him a very positive -- call it loveable -- personality and great sense of humor,” said hockey publisher Bob Stampleman. “He was one of the funniest guys I ever met and could tell a joke as well as Johnny Carson."

On the other hand, another new voice came through in the second campaign of the Dynasty Years. His name is Barry Landers and he had cut his puck teeth for hockey broadcasting with the fabled Long Island Ducks.

If you had ever watched the movie classic, "Slap Shot," you'd know what Eastern League hockey was like when Landers handled EHL games. Or, to put it another way, it was the perfect steppingstone for Barry and the popular beginning of "The Landers and Potvin" act; one of the best-ever doing hockey on the airwaves.

"Barry sure knew his stuff," Johnny told me, “And what a pleasure it was to work alongside him for so many seasons."

Remarkably, the "Odd Couple," worked like perfectly-meshed gears, through 1988-89 often with the knowledgeable Joel Blumberg as studio host.

One of The Maven's favorite memories was how all of us had the distinct honor of broadcasting a game none of us ever will forget:  The Easter Epic, topped by Pat LaFontaine's goal of all goal. Granted. the epic was exhausting but worth every thrill of it. (We spent a lot of time schmoozing about that one on the plane and bus rides back to the Island.) 

"It was a once in a lifetime thrill," concluded Johnny Potvin.

"We may never see another like it," added Landers and Barry was right about that.

Then again, we'll never see a more wonderful fellow like Johnny Potvin again either!

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