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Rules of the Road: Jean Potvin

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

Rookies should be seen and not heard.



Jean Potvin abided by the old adage when he broke into the NHL with the LA Kings in 1970-71. Potvin knew he would be the target of practical jokes, but rookie or not, there’s only so much a man can take before he bites back. 

In my first year with the Kings there was a defenseman named Ray Fortin and Ray was a real prankster. He loved to pick on me because I was a rookie, but also because I was French-Canadian like he was.

A few things about Ray. He was probably in his mid-30’s at the time, spent most of his career in the American Hockey League and had no teeth. I mean he had full dentures because he had lost so many during his career.

We embarked on a 14-day road trip that season, starting in Chicago. I took my shoes off for a nap on the flight and while I was asleep, Ray had the whole team sign my beige, cloth shoes with a felt marker. Maybe now that’s worth something, but I wasn’t too happy about it at the time.

So I said, okay, I have to get even cause he had pulled four or five pranks on me and I had done nothing. I was a rookie, so I wanted to be seen and not heard.During practice the next day, I broke my stick, so that I’d be allowed to go off the ice. Ray always took out his dentures and placed them in a glass of water, so while he was on the ice, I took his teeth. But I didn’t just take his teeth. I put them in a box – roughly the size of one you’d put a watch in – wrapped it up with brown paper and paid our trainer to take it to the post office and mail it back to LA.

The bottom line was that he was without any teeth – for the entire road trip.

It was really funny because it seemed like his face caved in a little more every day. He lost something like 10 pounds on that trip because all he could eat was spaghetti, pasta and stuff like that. He couldn't eat any steaks or anything like that.

I don't think to this day he knows who took his teeth. He suspected it was me, but I’d say ‘I wouldn’t touch your teeth, are you kidding? I had nothing to do with it.’

I didn’t tell anybody what I had done, but it was a pretty good road trip.
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