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New York Islanders in Olympic history

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It started, I suppose, with Ken Morrow's season of a lifetime, and resumed with Pat LaFontaine's almost-as-dreamy year. While Mark Streit is the Islanders' only Olympic representative this year, there have been many players who doubled as Olympians the same season they played for the Islanders. In fact, this year marks the Islanders' lowest Olympic participation since Ziggy Palffy played for Slovakia in 1994.

Jumping off the From The Rink post about how Olympians performed in 2006 after returning to their NHL teams, here's a look back at how past Islanders have done both at the Olympics and when they (re)joined the Islanders that same season. We'll go backwards in time, beginning with a guy who's still an Olympian today, and ending with the guy who won a gold medal and a Stanley Cup in the blink of an eye.

One thing that struck me while looking into this is just how many Islanders Olympians there were in 2002, the year the Isles returned to the playoffs. If it's a mark of a good NHL team that it has several players among their respective countries' best, perhaps we can at least take some solace that there are a few future Olympians in the Islanders' current rebuild mix.

Miro Satan 2006 (Turin)


Miro Satan 2006 GP G A P +/- PIM
Islanders, pre-Olympics
56 24
20
44
-9
38
2006 Olympics, Slovakia
6 0
2
2
+1
2
post-Olympics 26 11 11
22
+1
16

Naturally Satan finished his first season with the Islanders with 66 points. Impressively, he played all 82 games that year as well as the six-game departure in Italy.

Alexei Yashin 2006 (Turin)


Alexei Yashin 2006 GP G A P +/- PIM
Islanders, pre-Olympics
56 18
29
47
-4
52
2006 Olympics, Russia
8 1
3
4
+1
4
post-Olympics 26 10 9
19
-10
16

Like Satan, Yashin also played all 82 games that season and compiled 66 points.

 

Mark Parrish 2006 (Turin)


Mark Parrish 2006 GP G A P +/- PIM
Islanders, pre-Olympics
52 21
15
36
-14
14
2006 Olympics, USA
6 0
0
0
-2
2
post-Olympics (NYI and LA)
24 8 5
13
-9
6

As best I can tell, Parrish is the only Islanders Olympian whom the Isles traded during the same season. In fact, after the disappointing U.S. finish in Turin, Parrish would play only five more games as an Islander -- collecting three goals and two assists -- before being shipped at the deadline to the Kings with Brent Sopel for Denis Grebeshkov and ... now what's this guy's name...?  "Jeff Tambellini" ... huh, never heard of him.

Obviously he was in more of a featured role on his NHL teams than he would be for Team America, but I imagine just getting the Olympic call was a thrill.

 

Alexei Yashin 2002 (Salt Lake City)


Alexei Yashin 2002
GP G A P +/- PIM
Islanders, pre-Olympics
57 24
33
57
-7
17
2002 Olympics, Russia
6 1
1
2
+1
0
post-Olympics 21 8 10
18
+4
8

Fewer post-Olympic games in 2002 and slightly better production for Yashin on an Islanders team that was better all around than the 2006 version. Yashin had a lot of pressure heading into that season's memorable seven-game playoff series with Toronto, during which he put up 3-4-7 to get a bit of the playoff monkey off his back after two consecutive goalless, four-game sweeps suffered as a Senator.

Incidentally, Yashin's best Olympic year was 1998, when Russia won silver in Nagano and Yashin compiled 3-3-6.

 

Oleg Kvasha 2002 (Salt Lake City)


Oleg Kvasha 2002
GP G A P +/- PIM
Islanders, pre-Olympics
57 24
33
57
-7
17
2002 Olympics, Russia
5 0
0
0
+1
0
post-Olympics 21 8 10
18
+4
8

Apparently, Kvasha did participate with the bronze-winning Russian squad in 2002, though you wouldn't know it by the stat line. Given his big body and, um, "unique" skillset, it's probable he toiled as a fourth-liner though. Obviously I have no recollection of this whatsoever, and my brain thanks me for forgetting it.

 

Roman Hamrlik 2002 (Salt Lake City)


Roman Hamrlik 2002
GP G A P +/- PIM
Islanders, pre-Olympics
45 5
21
26
+3
64
2002 Olympics, Czech Republic
4 0
1
1
+7
2
post-Olympics 25 6 5
11
+4
14

The Hammer's Czech team had a disappointing performance coming off their 1998 gold and multiple world championships. They tied Canada 3-3 in the preliminary round but loss to the Swiss 2-1, setting up a quarterfinal draw with Yashin and Kvasha's Russia, who dispatched the Czechs 1-0.

After the Olympics, Peter Laviolette continued to run him hard as part of the Islanders' Big Four defensemen core, with Hamrlik continuing to log more than 25 minutes on most nights. He was still productive in the playoffs, with six assists and a goal (a BIG goal, that shot from the blueline that rang in off Curtis Joseph's right post and briefly gave the Isles a third-period lead in the Bates Penalty Shot game).

 

Kenny Jonsson 2002 (Salt Lake City)


Kenny Jonsson 2002
GP G A P +/- PIM
Islanders, pre-Olympics
45 5
21
26
+3
64
2002 Olympics, Sweden
3 1
0
1
+1
2
post-Olympics 24 4 10
14
+13
10

Another part of Laviolette's heavily leaned-upon Big Four on defense, Jonsson played on two gold-winning Swedish Olympic squads (2006, 1994). But in 2002, their dreams were crushed in the quarterfinal by Belarus, in part thanks to that memorable gaffe by another (ex-)Islander, goalie Tommy Salo.

And as we all know, that year Jonsson's playoffs ended prematurely when a player whose courage is mythologized bravely took a zone-length run to check Jonsson from behind, knocking him out of the series with another concussion. Afterward, Brave Sir Roberts ran away, away.

 

Michael Peca 2002 (Salt Lake City)


Peca 2002
GP G A P +/- PIM
Islanders, pre-Olympics
55 16
27
43
+10
42
2002 Olympics, Canada
6 0
2
2
E
2
post-Olympics 25 9 8
17
+9
20

The Sabres' '99 Cup finals run aside, this may have Peca's greatest year: Helping revitalize a franchise on Long Island and then playing his tailor-made checking role on a gold-medal-winning Olympic squad.

And as we all know, that year Peca's playoffs ended prematurely when a player whose grit is mythologized bravely threatened -- and then delivered -- to remove Peca from the series by submarining his knee and derailing his career. Afterward, the brave mother-tucker continued to play like the same old tool, though his home-fan-maddening decline has been fun to observe from afar in both Toronto and Denver.

 

Sergei Nemchinov 1998 (Nagano)


Nemchinov 1998
GP G A P +/- PIM
Islanders, pre-Olympics
54 7
19
26
+8
16
1998 Olympics, Russia
6 1
0
1
n/a
0
post-Olympics 20 3 0
3
-5
8

So yeah, that was Sergei Nemchinov.

 

Bryan Berard 1998 (Nagano)


Berard 1998
GP G A P +/- PIM
Islanders, pre-Olympics
51 12
20
32
-25
43
1998 Olympics, USA
2 0
0
0
n/a
0
post-Olympics 24 2 12
14
-7
16

The then-young, then-rising Berard saw only two games with the Olympic squad in 1998. By 2002 he'd be in the middle of his un-retired comeback year with the Rangers. Amazing how quickly his story took multiple U-turns.

 

Tommy Salo 1998 (Nagano)


GP MIN W L GA GAA SV% SO
Islanders, pre-Olympics 44 2440 16 19 103 n/a n/a 4
1998 Olympics, Sweden
4 238 2 2 9 2.27 .913 0
post-Olympics, Islanders
18 1021 7 10 49 2.88 n/a 0

This, of course, was before the association of "Salo" and "Olympics" would be know for something else entirely. Salo played 62 games for the Islanders that season, compiling a 2.64 GAA and .906 save percentage on the season.

 

Robert Reichel 1998 (Nagano)


Reichel 1998
GP G A P +/- PIM
Islanders, pre-Olympics
58 20
28
48
-4
16
1998 Olympics, Czechia
6 3
0
3
n/a
0
post-Olympics 24 5 12
17
-7
16

After netting three goals in the Olympics, Reichel potted three more in his first four games back with the Isles. Then he went into a 14-game drought that tempered an otherwise productive year.

*  *  *

And now, we get into the pre-NHL participation days of the Olympics...

Žigmund Pálffy 1994 (Lillehammer)


Palffy 1994
GP G A P +/- PIM
Salt Lake (IHL)
57 25
32
57
n/a
83
1994 Olympics, Slovakia
8 3
7
10
n/a
8
post-Olympics, Islanders
5 0
0
0
-6
0

Palffy was already a promising forward in the IHL and during the Olympics in France, but his cup of coffee with the Islanders under Al Arbour showed it would be a little while yet before he was ripe for the NHL.

 

Marty McInnis 1992 (Albertville)


McInnis 1992
GP G A P +/- PIM
1992 Olympics, USA
8
5
2
7
n/a
4
post-Olympics, Islanders
15 3
5
8
+6
0

The 1992 U.S. Olympic hockey team featured several players who would then or later have Islanders ties. (Meanwhile, on the ridiculously stocked Russian/Unified Team side, several current or future NHLers played, including Darius Kasparaitis and Vladimir Malakhov.)

The U.S. rode the goaltending of Ray LeBlanc, but his backup, a fella by the name of Scott Gordon, did mop-up duty during the final game, a 6-1 trouncing by Czechoslovakia, in that country's final Olympics as a single entity.

 

Scott Lachance 1992 (Albertville)


Lachance 1992
GP G A P +/- PIM
1992 Olympics, USA
8
0
1
1
n/a
6
post-Olympics, Islanders
17 1
4
5
+13
9

Lachance's plus-13 in just 17 games to start his NHL career really stands out there. It makes me wonder who he was paired with -- or if Arbour protected him with ideal matchups. Tom Kurvers was minus-18 on the year, Uwe Krupp was plus-13, while Arbour used a rotating cast that also included Rich Pilon, Wayne McBean, and current assistant coach Dean Chynoweth.

 

Jeff Norton 1988 (Calgary)


Norton 1988
GP G A P +/- PIM
1988 Olympics, USA
6
0
4
4
n/a
4
post-Olympics, Islanders
15 1
6
7
+3
14

The 1988 U.S. Olympic team also featured multiple players who would later have at least cups of coffee with the Islanders (including one who would later coach them back to the playoffs in 2002 and 2003). But to my knowledge, the only Olympian who joined the Islanders that season was Norton.

 

Pat LaFontaine 1984 (Sarajevo)


LaFontaine 1984 GP G
A
P PIM
1984 U.S. National Team
58 56
55 111
22
1984 Olympics, USA
6 5
3
8
0
Islanders, post-Olympics 15 13 6 19
6

They didn't report +/- stats for LaFontaine's Team USA work that year, but he was +9 at the end of the season for the Islanders. He followed that up with 3-6-9 and minus-2 in 16 playoff games as the Dynasty came to an exhausted end, LaFontaine's new teammates entering their decline just as he was about to become a young star.

Patrick Flatley 1984 (Sarajevo)


Flatley 1984 GP G
A
P PIM
1984 Canadian National Team
57 31
17
41
48
1984 Olympics, Canada
7 3
3
6
20
Islanders, post-Olympics 16 2 7 9
6

(Thanks to the reader who pointed out this glaring oversight.) Future captain Flats was the other '84 Olympian who joined the Islanders mid-season after yet another Olympic tourney dominated by the "professionals" of the Eastern bloc. Now I'm wondering how and why Flatley piled up 20 PIMs during that tourney.

Ken Morrow 1980 (Lake Placid)


Morrow 1980 GP G
A
P PIM
1980 U.S. National Team
56 4
18
22
6
1980 Olympics, USA
7
1
2
3
6
Islanders, post-Olympics 18 0
3
3
4

The wild ride of Ken Morrow, which needs no introduction. In addition to those 18 regular season games noted above, Morrow played in 20 playoff games, compiling 1-2-3 and 12 PIMs, and of course, added the first of four Stanley Cups to go with his gold medal from that year.

*  *  *

This post got waaay longer than I imagined when I first thought of it. You can probably tell the 1980s really gets into the period where my memory and research collide in a fog. If there's anyone I missed, by all means let me know. Otherwise, the comments are open per usual for this and other topics on your mind.