Anyone who was lucky enough to attend the New York Islanders alumni reunion weekend could easily see how the new owners, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, feel about the Islanders- both past and present. Plain and simple - they're family. Perhaps that's why they invited anyone whose ever worn the jersey - whether it was for one game or a thousand games - to join them. These owners are fully committed to reconnecting their team with their proud, historic, Stanley Cup winning ways. And they're not the only ones who feel strongly about family. Jean Potvin who played two stints (1973-78 and 79-81) says that's what turned him into an Islander champion.
Potvin broke into the league playing for Fred Shero in Philadelphia, but Potvin wasn't the best fit with the emerging Broad Street Bullies. Toward the end of the 1972-73 season, Shero let Potvin know he wanted him to be more physical. Potvin replied that he didn't mind mixing it up a bit, but he "wasn't gonna beat up on guys just because they're good hockey players." Not long after that, Potvin's ice time was reduced, and he could see the writing on the wall. So off he went to talk to the Flyers general manager, Keith Allen.
Potvin explained his position - he was only 23 and still believed he could play in the NHL. If it wasn't going to be in Philly, maybe Allen would be willing to trade him? It was early March, about a week before the trading deadline, but the Flyers GM was a good guy. Without promising him anything, Allen asked Potvin where he would like to go. That year - '72 - '73 - was the Islanders first season in the league, and they were well on their way to setting the record for the worst record in NHL history - 12-60-6. So when Potvin said, "The New York Islanders," Allen was flabbergasted. "What!?! Why do you want to go there, they're terrible!" he screamed.
Video: Islanders Alumni Weekend
Potvin explained again. First, the fact that they were lousy might be a good thing for a young player like him - a way to ensure more playing time. But what really mattered to him was something else entirely. The Islanders' record was so bad, they were already guaranteed the first pick in the draft the next year. And the man who was going to make that pick, General Manager Bill Torrey - otherwise known as the Architect - had already indicated he was going to use that pick to draft Potvin's younger brother, Denis. More than anything, Potvin wanted to play with his brother. And so the trade was made March 10, 1973.
It took a few years for the Islanders to turn things around. (In one of those years, '75 - '76, Jean registered 72 points, a record for the most points ever scored by an Islander defenseman - other than his brother Denis, that is.) But with Torrey and future Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour at the helm, the Islanders got really good, really quickly - winning the first of their four Stanley Cups in a row in 1979-80. And Jean Potvin- the guy who asked to be traded to the worst team in NHL history - was with the the team for all four cups - two as a player and two as a broadcaster.
To be at the reunion and see the guys all enjoying each others company, it somehow seemed fitting that Potvin came to the Islanders to be with his brother and then wound up with four Stanley Cup rings. It's part of the culture Malkin and Ledecky are trying to promote and instill. Management, players, and of course fans, all have a role to play in the regeneration of the Islander family. So next time you're at Barclays - or even at home in your tv room - make sure you cheer your heart out. And know that the Islanders are truly one big band of brothers, and have been right from the very beginning.