A Tribute to Islanders Jean Potvin

The defenseman, who died a year ago at 72, was memorialized last Friday afternoon at the Huntington Country Club

a tribute to islanders jean potvin

NY Islanders

Had a poll ever been taken for “The Most Loveable Islander,” I’d put my money on Jean (Potsy) Potvin as the landslide winner.

The defenseman, who died a year ago at 72, was memorialized last Friday afternoon at the Huntington Country Club with a stirring ceremony that included some of hockey’s greatest stars as well as close friends and family.

“It was a wonderfully touching event,” said Associated Press lead hockey writer Allan Kreda, who was one of the speakers. “Johnny was one of the most popular Islanders in history.”

Teammates who attended included Denis Potvin, Chico Resch, Bryan Trottier, John Tonelli and Pat LaFontaine. Trots, an accomplished guitarist, plucked a tune in memory of his pal.

Jean’s lovely wife, Lorraine, attended along with daughters Kim and Leslie as well as their son Justin and families; not to mention Hall of Fame broadcaster Jiggs McDonald and longtime Isles radio play by play ace Barry Landers who emceed the event.

“Potsie stories flowed throughout the afternoon,” said Kreda. “One theme was how special it was to have two brothers on the same team and how well they got along.”

Dating back to their childhood in Hull, Quebec, the Potvin brothers were extremely close. In his autobiography, “Power On Ice,” Denis pointed out how he never could have enjoyed a Hall of Fame career without the guidance of his big brother.

But, mostly the attendees focused on the fun side of Jean. Personally, I have never met a hockey player who could so easily inspire a smile the way Johnny Potvin did.

Those of us who attended the annual Canadian Society of New York dinners always got the biggest kicks out of Jean when he was master of ceremonies and chief joke teller.

Because Jean, the humorist, was so revered for his upbeat persona there was a tendency to overlook his excellence as a defenseman. He was a two-time Stanley Cup-winner and equally adept at offense and defense.

a tribute to islanders jean potvin

© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As for The Maven, I have a bagful of Potsie stories; one of which I’ll mention here as one of his teammates’ all-time favorites. It was best told by Ed (#18) Westfall who was Isles captain when Jean arrived in Uniondale after being traded for Terry Crisp. Westfall called the Potsy story “The Pygmy With a Blowgun.” Here’s how Eighteen told it:

“We were involved in a very close game when the other team broke out on a three-on-one break. Jean was the only defenseman we had back to stop them.

“Jean started backpedalling and just as he reached our blue line, he unexpectedly fell down. Nobody hit him or anything; he just fell and the guy with the puck went right past him and scored easily.

“Fortunately, we went on to win the game, so it took the heat off Potsy. But nobody forgot about the incident, including our coach Al Arbour.

“The next day while we were having a practice, Al stopped everything and went over to Jean. ‘For crying out loud, Potsy, what the hell happened to you? Did you trip on the blue line last night?’

“With that, Jean came right up with the answer. ‘You won’t believe it, Al,’ he said. ‘but there’s a pygmy up there in the stands with a blowgun and he got me dead on. That’s what it was. It must’ve been. What else could it be? It was a pygmy with a blowgun.’

“I’ve often asked myself how a hockey player could come up with such a creative alibi such as that. But Potsy did it and for years after every time a player would fall down on his own under the same circumstances — or anything close — we always called it ‘The pygmy with a blowgun.'”

Jean’s tale always was good for laughs and so was Johnny Potvin. And that helps explain why we all loved him dearly and and why many tears were shed in his memory last Friday at the Huntington Country Club!

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