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Even old hall-of-famers get excited for the opener

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin signs autographs for fans outside of JLA Friday.

A nine-time NHL All-Star and a three-time Norris Trophy winner, hall of fame defenseman Denis Potvin knows a thing or two about opening night butterflies.

Potvin, who won as many Stanley Cup championships as Nicklas Lidstrom, said that he still gets nervous before games. And he retired as a player after the 1987-88 season.

“But everyone will tell you that they don’t mind being nervous before the start of a game,” said Potvin, in town Friday as a color analyst for Rogers Sportsnet, which broadcasts Ottawa Senators games.

“I’m not as nervous. But yes, I’m very excited for the start of a new season,” he said.

Potvin said that he was very much a creature of habit during his playing career, something that continues to follow him into his 18th season as a broadcaster.

“It was always just a routine,” he said. “I have no problem having a nap in the middle of the afternoon, even today. But I think the butterflies come from the nervousness that you may not be able to do even the normal things. And that’s what you have to get over. I mean, you can achieve great things, but you don’t know when that will happen. But you just want to be able to do your normal things, move the puck, move up the ice, or whatever it is that you do.”

Potvin said that he doesn’t have a lot of memories of playing the Red Wings during his career, which makes sense, since he probably only played in Detroit a handful of times, if that.

“They were always a physical team,” Potvin said. “But the thing that the Red Wings lacked in the years that I played in the 70s and 80s is that they really didn’t have the speed and the puck control that they have now. But really the talent started shaping up in the 80s when (Steve) Yzerman showed up, and of course, (Nicklas) Lidstrom after that. Those were not great years for the Red Wings.”

What are Potvin’s recollections of playing for then New York Islanders and then-assistant general manager Jimmy Devellano?

“I love the guy. They had to steal him from our organization to bring him here to finally build a champion,” said Potvin of Devellano, who is created with being the architect to four Islanders Cup titles in the 80s. “He’s just one of the best, and still today, I love him, and I look forward to talking to him whenever I get a chance.”

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