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NHL Centennial

Denis Potvin has great memories of milestone goal

Islanders legend became first NHL defenseman to score 300 on Jan. 14, 1988

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

Though it happened 29 years ago, former New York Islanders captain Denis Potvin vividly remembers the night he became the first NHL defenseman to score 300 goals.

"It was a 160 mile-an-hour wrist shot," he joked to "There had never been a shot that fast."

It was 4:24 into the second period against the Quebec Nordiques at Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 14, 1988, when Potvin got to a puck in the slot and shot it past goalie Ron Tugnutt in a game the Islanders won 8-5.

With his goal, Potvin not only had No. 300, he also had 1,030 points, also the most by any NHL defenseman at the time. On Dec. 20, 1985, Potvin broke Bobby Orr's record with his 916th point with an assist during a game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

"It's hard to say what was more important, [300 goals] or breaking the [points] record, which was Bobby Orr's," Potvin said. "But obviously that [goals] milestone is the one that really sort of hit that barrier, sort of when I got to 1,000 points. I have both those sticks and I have both those pucks, so those are the milestones that I suppose at the time set the standard."

Potvin played his last game exactly three months after scoring his 300th goal; he retired after the Islanders lost to the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He finished with 1,052 points (310 goals, 742 assists) in 1,060 regular-season games and 164 points (56 goals, 108 assists) in 185 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Four NHL defensemen have since scored more career goals than Potvin: Ray Bourque (410), Paul Coffey (396), Al MacInnis (340) and Phil Housley (338). Each played at least 1,400 games; Bourque played more than 1,600. Potvin ranks seventh among NHL defensemen in points.

Potvin captained the Islanders to four straight Stanley Cup championships from 1980-83 and they won 19 consecutive playoff series, reaching the Final in 1984.

In 1987-88, his final season, Potvin had 19 goals and 32 assists in 72 games. He fell one goal shy of what would have been his 10th season of scoring at least 20 goals. But at the age of 35, Potvin decided to call it quits. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.

"I handed the captaincy over to Brent Sutter in training camp [in the fall of 1987], and I made the announcement to our team, and of course it went around the League, that this would be my final season," Potvin said. "It didn't just happen overnight; it took a couple of years to think about what I wanted to do. I had already started working in another industry in the summer months, preparing for that eventual time away. I think Larry Robinson was the only player older than I was in the League. We didn't have those 40-year-old guys. But I was done.

"I wanted that last year to be special. But in saying that, there's nothing that I've done in my life then or now that was more fun than playing hockey. I feel today the same way I felt the day after the series was over in New Jersey, when we lost to the Devils. I feel now the same way I did then; it was time. I was going to move on to my second life, and it's been a great period.

"If there's anything I can offer guys who are in that situation, it's really to think about when you want to retire. It's important because you're going to spend 50 years thinking about it. If you have a choice, think about how you want to go out. It'll be important every single day of your life."

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