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Maven's Memories: Islanders Personalities 1972-78

Stan Fischler once thought Clark Gillies was going to throw him in a pool during an interview

by Stan Fischler StanFischler / NewYorkIslanders.com

As an expansion team that gained a playoff berth within three years of its existence, the New York Islanders comprised more than a few veterans, rookies, artistic types -- well, a few -- and grunts.

But going beyond the names on the roster, there was a personality to go with each and every stickhandler. And since I covered the team from Day One, I have some interesting observations about many of them. Here they are, in no particular order.


CLARK GILLIES:

Renowned for his sense of humor, the Big Fella from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan had a running gag when folks would query him about the whereabouts of Moose Jaw. "It's about 10 feet from the Moose's behind!" was the Gillies squelch.

Interestingly, although Clark was mostly a jolly fellow, he found that the captaincy was too much a burden for him to bear and prior to the 1979-80 season he gave up the "C" and gave it to Denis Potvin.

If Clark wasn't the team's top prankster, he was right up there and could be dangerous if you happen to be his target - as I was.

This was the summer of 1979 and Gillies allowed me to do a SportsChannel interview on his patio next to his swimming goal. Half-way through the interview, I sensed that I was too close to the pool's edge. 

Suddenly, I had visions of Clark depositing me in his lagoon while I was wearing my newest suit. The interview finally ended and I braced myself but the push never came to pass.

Months later, I brought up the incident and Gillies told me that he fully intended to dump me.

"Why didn't you?" I asked. And he quickly shot back, "because I felt sorry for your suit."

Video: The Islanders Softball Team


GLENN RESCH:

His parents called him Glenn, but he was "Chico" to you and me. The Saskatchewan native can only be described as "ebullient," as Chico loved to talk -- still does -- on any subject, any time. 

Once he asked me to give him a tour of my old neighborhood, Williamsburg (circa 1937-1957), which I did. He couldn't get over the fact that my old high school, Eastern District, had become a girl's yeshiva, and that the Flushing Avenue industrial area now featured new homes.

But my favorite Chico moment took place where my old brownstone used to be; at 582 Marcy Avenue. A middle-aged lady was standing a few feet away waiting to cross the street. Resch ambled over to her, introduced himself -- and they chatted for a good 15 minutes.

The beauty part of Chico was that always -- even now -- would deliver a quote for newsmen even in his -- or the club's -- darkest hour. The late Sid Payne, who covered the Isles for the Long Island Press, once told me that Glenn was "the most cooperative athlete I've ever met."


DENIS POTVIN:

Easily one of the Islanders most cerebral players, the husky defenseman was one of my favorite interviews; post-game or otherwise.

What I found fascinating about Denis in a dialogue is that he always paused for a few precious seconds before answering my query. It eventually dawned on me that his respite was designed to fully digest the question and then deliver and eloquent answer.

Video: Denis Potvin was captain of Islanders' 1980s dynasty


ED WESTFALL:

Having been taken in the 1972 Expansion Draft, just after playing for the Boston Bruins, Number 18 and I did not hit it off at first in Uniondale. I had big-time trouble with Ed's Bruins captain, Ted Green, over things I had written. 

I had the scoop in the New York Journal-American after interviewing Rangers president Bill Jennings who delcared a bounty on Green. Needless to say, the Bruins -- especially 18 -- didn't like that. 

Not surprisingly, Captain Ed gave me the cold shoulder for a bit but we came around to be good friends. As William Shakespeare wrote, "All's well that ends well."


BILL SMITH:

My biggest mistake was watching Smitty in his rookie year and then writing in The Hockey News that he'll "never amount to much as a big-league goalie." Of course, Billy read the column and, thereafter, blew me off every time I wanted to interview him.

Meanwhile, Bill improved with every month and I didn't want to be "iced" out of interviews. My peacemaker willing to intervene with Smitty was -- who else? -- Chico. First, Resch heard me out; then he approached his goaltending buddy and explained that I knew how wrong I was about Smitty's competency. Ever since 1973 we've remained pals.

Video: Billy Smith was goalie on Islanders' 1980s dynasty


BOB BOURNE:

Kid Lightning was my favorite and closest friend on the team. His answers -- like Smitty's -- were candid and without fear of retribution from management.

Which mean that -- from time to time -- he would anger coach Al Arbour; and vice versa.

The head-butting reached a climax during the Isles drive for five after Edmonton took the series lead in the 1984 Stanley Cup Final. Like many Islanders, Bourne was beat-up, but good. His knee was badly damaged yet he pleased with Radar to let him play.

Arbour was more concerned about the good and welfare of one of his most loyal players. The Coach refused to allow Bob to dress and Bourne refused to take the rejection in stride.

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