As one of the 16 Islanders who hoisted the Stanley Cup four consecutive times between 1980 and 1983, Denis Potvin basked in plenty of real-time adoration from the fans who helped turn Nassau Coliseum into “Fort Neverlose.”
But while most of his teammates remained on Long Island following their retirement, Potvin embarked upon a career in broadcasting with the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators. He remained popular with the fans in front of whom he’d played his entire Hall of Fame career, but he didn’t get the regular reminders of what the Islanders and Nassau Coliseum meant to those who lived east of New York City’s five boroughs.
It took until June, when Potvin, now retired from broadcasting, trekked to Long Island from his home in Canada for the Islanders’ final three home games at Nassau Coliseum — the trio of raucous and deafening instant classics against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL semifinals — to fully understand how the building and the Islanders still resonate with
“I’d never sat in the seats during any of the games. Obviously, but this time I’m sitting, like, in row eight above the penalty box and the place is unbelievable and I’m saying ‘Now I know,’” Potvin said last week. “I knew, but this was another way to appreciate what this building was able to offer.”
With the Islanders a little more than two months away from playing their first game at their true permanent post-Coliseum home — UBS Arena is scheduled to open for hockey Nov. 20 when the Islanders host the Calgary Flames — Potvin and dynasty teammate Bryan Trottier are taking one more look back at the Coliseum years with a quartet of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) produced in conjunction with Fanaply and Flux88.
“It’s a culmination of all the wonderful thoughts and feelings that can come back to me now as a (67)-year-old guy looking back at my life in hockey and Long Island,” Potvin said. “I think maybe that’s the most important thing — it’s doing as much for me as it is for the people who like it and buy it.”
The series, titled “Closing the Barn,” features portraits of each player by artist Kevin Briones. It includes one NFT of each player — available for $40 and limited to 80 pieces — in which Potvin and Trottier speak about their early memories at the Coliseum.
Potvin discussed scoring his first two career goals in his first NHL victory Oct. 27, 1973, which also marked the Islanders’ first win over the rival Rangers. Trottier recalled the night of Oct. 11, 1975, when he made his Coliseum debut and collected a hat trick against the Kings.
The friends teamed up for another NFT, priced at $250 and limited to 25 pieces, in which they talked about the decibel-busting noise at the Coliseum and how hard it was for either to hear the other despite being next to one another on the bench. Yet above the din, Potvin recalls hearing a woman “…yelling ‘Motor Potvin! Motor Potvin!’” as he exited the Islanders’ zone.
A fourth NFT begins with an opening bid of $2,000 and is awarded to the highest bidder. If it goes beyond $25,000, the winner spends a weekend with Potvin and Trottier.
“Collectibles have really gotten sky-high since the pandemic,” Potvin said. “And this is another step, where now someone can own something that’s truly his or hers and only theirs.”
The foray into NFTs for Potvin and Trottier comes at a time when the Islanders are finally creating some more memories that could rival those generated during the dynasty years. The Islanders’ back-to-back runs to the NHL semifinals the last two years marked the first time the team made it beyond the second round in consecutive seasons since the streak of five straight Stanley Cup Finals appearances ended in 1984.
The Islanders turned into social media sensations this spring, when pandemic-era seating limitations were gradually lifted until more than 10,000 people — including celebrities such as Ralph Macchio and Susan Lucci as well as beer-swilling members of the New York Jets and dynasty mainstay Clark Gillies, who was captured chugging a beer and smashing the can against his head during the second-round series against the Bruins — were filling Nassau Coliseum with a 1980s-esque noise.
The most memorable moment of the playoff run was created accidentally when a hiccup with the sound system forced anthem singer Nicole Raviv to rely on the crowd to sing the National Anthem before Game 4 against the Bruins. Raviv led the crowd in the Anthem prior to the next four home games.
“I have a terrible singing voice,” Potvin said. “But when (ten) thousand people were all singing, with our phones lit up blasting away the National Anthem before the game and going a the top of (their) lungs, it was great. It was so great. I was so happy that I made the decision to be there.”
Potvin said he hopes to be at the first game at UBS Arena, when the Islanders will likely take the ice as one of a handful of teams with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations — and the chance to cement their own legacy, on the Island and elsewhere, for generations to come.
“I think the makings are all there,” Potvin said. “I hope that it does become theirs (and) they can really embrace it the way we embraced the Coliseum.
“It’s time for the young guys to go out and win their own Cup and make that building Fort Neverlose 2. I hope they can. I really do hope they can.”