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Maven's Memories: Dog Tales and Other Offbeat Isles Stories

From team rules to dogs eating out of the Stanley Cup, Stan Fischler recounts five offbeat Isles stories

by Stan Fischler StanFischler /

When I think back to the Islanders fabulous history - both before, during and after the 1980 Cup run - several stories come to mind. The following five are a few of The Maven's personal favorites:


Throughout the Islanders lon,. rich history the club has produced some arresting characters but few could match goalie Glenn (Chico) Resch. 

Superstar Mike Bossy described Resch as a "classic, wonderfully funny man." Most teammates shared that view although coach Al (Radar) Arbour had some misgivings about Chico's idiosyncrasies.

In Mike's autobiography, "Boss -- The Mike Bossy Story," co-written with Barry Meisel - Bossy explained how Resch's penchant for procrastination actually compelled Arbour to compose a new team rule:

"Chico showed up last for buses, planes, practices, everything," wrote Bossy. "He would get to practice, sit in the parking lot and then just read the newspaper, cover to cover.  

"Then - picture this - 10 minutes before we were due on the ice, Chico would bolt into the room and jump into his cumbersome goalie equipment in a record-breaking five minutes."

Meanwhile, Radar would be doing a slow burn and eventually decided he had to do something about it. 

Bossy: "Chico was the reason Al made a rule that we report to the dressing room a half-hour before every practice!"


Many Islanders have told me that goalie Bill Smith was one of the most intensely competitive players ever to lace on skates or put on the pads. This tale - related by Resch, via Pat LaFontaine - details a Smitty emotional explosion, or two.

The first furor unfolded during an intra-team contest following practice. Feeling relaxed, the skaters decided to play an "East-West" just-for-the-fun-of-it match.

Players from the Western Canadian provinces would skate against their Eastern counterparts and any Americans who happened to be around, one of them being LaFontaine.

"The deal was," Chico explained, "that each guy would chip in 10 dollars and the winners would split the dough among themselves. But they discovered that there was a problem; everybody agreed to fork over a ten-spot - but one, Smitty."

Bill shook his head; didn't want any part of it; and explained why; when Smith plays for money -- any kind of dough, 10 bucks or otherwise - he plays for keeps. 

Resch: "Smitty begged off but the guys needed a second goalie and urged him to reconsider. He finally gave in, but repeated that, when it comes to cash, he doesn't kid around.

"So, the game starts and they're all having a good, old time when Patty (LaFontaine) tears in on Bill from the right side, gets off a hard shot and Smitty makes the save. But he leaves a bit of a rebound and Patty jabs at the puck trying to get it free."

At this point, Smith leaped in anger and furiously tore after Pat before cooler players intervened. As Bill stormed off, the fighting goalie repeated his mantra: when he plays for money, it's not funny! His last words were: "I warned you -- and you guys didn't believe me."

(P.S. Bossy remembers Smith erupting at him during practice after Mike shot one too high for comfort. "Smitty went crazy," said Boss. "He skated after me; swung his stick at me and didn't calm down until I skated away.")

Video: Thank You Stan Fischler


A rookie on the 1980 championship team, Duane Sutter was revered for his dogged perseverance on every shift. That explains why Duane got the nickname "Dog."

Speaking of canines, it brings us to the day Arbour thought so little of his team after a poor road game that Radar called his skaters "dogs." Then, Al added insult to culinary at the Isles next pre-game meal. Unbeknownst to the players, he inserted a plate of dog biscuits on the buffet table. 

The North American players got the message, but Swedish defensemen Stefan Persson mistook the dog food for regular cookies to go with his coffee. 

Of course, none of the players dared tip off Stefan as he bit into one of the canine treats. As the rest of the gang listened intently, they heard Persson observe: "This is different; actually pretty tasty!"


Steve Tambellini, a promising young forward, played one game for the Isles in 1978-79 and became a regular in time for the 1980 Cup team.

Tamby, told me this post-Cup story after the 1980 celebrations. I liked it so much I put it in my book of hockey humor, The Flakes of Winter.

"I was invited to a post-win party at Clark Gillies' house," Tambellini recalled, "and somebody brought the Stanley Cup along in all its shining splendor. In the middle of the party, Clark remembered that he had to feed his dog, Hombre, a huge German Shepherd.

"Clarkie filled the top of the Stanley Cup with dog food and the next thing I knew I was viewing an unbelievable sight; a huge canine having dinner out of the respected Stanley Cup. 

"Frankly, I never expect to see anything like that for the rest of my life!"

P.S. Neither could the Shepherd. As for Clark, when asked how he could allow his pet to do such an irreverent thing, Jethro had the perfect squelch. "Why not? Hombre is a good dog!"


One of the most famous player numbers in NHL history is Hall of Famer Denis Potvin's #5. But it once could have been #7 since that's the number he wore throughout his Junior hockey career.

Thus, it was only natural that Denis requested #7 when he came to training camp as an Islander rookie in 1973. Potvin put in his bid for a seven with the trainer and later that day he received -- in writing -- how he could easily he could obtain it.

"The next thing I know," Denis chuckled, "there's a note on my locker that said, 'If you want that number, pay me $500.' It was signed by Germaine Gagnon, a forward on the club. 

"Five hundred bucks for Number 7? Was he kidding?," Denis said. "That's how I wound up with number five!"

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