clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

New York Islanders History: Brothers Gonna Work It Out

NHL annals are marked by brothers who each made it to the big time. Some of them spent time with the New York Islanders. Some of them won Stanley Cups.

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Brothers. For young male NHL fans, the inevitable dream is to be in the NHL -- and for fans with brothers, it's not a leap to dream of going all Sutter and making it to the NHL together.

It doesn't happen often, and even when it does happen it's often more Brent Gretzky than it is Anton Stastny. But something about the stereotypical hockey player character, the oft-heard humble roots or mornings at the rink, that makes brothers tales in hockey all the more engaging. (No offense to the Barbers.)

In their 40 years the New York Islanders have had their share of NHL brothers, with a few even requiring a first initial on their nameplate while suiting up for the Orange and Blue. Here is a sampling of the notable and obscure:

Better Add a First Initial

Jean and Denis Potvin

Islanders brothers starts with the Potvins, and Bill Torrey pretty blatantly acquired the elder Jean Potvin (from Philadelphia for Terry Crisp) for one reason: To make sure top prospect Denis Potvin would choose the Islanders over the rival WHA when the Islanders called his name. It's not clear whether the WHA was ever a real threat for Denis' services, but having his brother on the Isles didn't hurt his decision process.

But now, which is worse: Being acquired just because of your brother, or later being dealt to Cleveland in an effort to build a Cup winner without you? The Isles dealt Jean in 1978 (with Wayne Merrick the key piece coming back), but they later re-signed the older Potvin as a free agent in time for the first two dynastic Cups.

Duane and Brent Sutter

No NHL brothers discussion can happen without the Sutters, and the Islanders had the only Sutters to win the Stanley Cup as players. (Darryl finally joined Duane and Brent on the Cup, as Kings coach, last spring.)

Duane has the less impressive career, but he came first, as the Islanders' first-round pick (17th overall) in 1979 -- a year after older brother Brian made an immediate impression with the Blues. Duane would win all four Cups with the Islanders before being dealt to the Blackhawks in 1987 for a 2nd-round pick.

Brent arrived two years after Duane, helping out with a couple of Cups and sticking around until that famous fall of 1991 when he and Pat LaFontaine (who?) were traded in separate deals. Brent followed his brother to Chicago, though they did not share the ice together there.

The 1982 Stanley Cup celebration video featuring both of them is a classic (Sutters appear at 2:33 of the video, with 22-year-old Duane wearing #25, not #12, and 19-year-old Brent wearing the familiar #21, though he would wear #12 in Chicago, as would Duane before him):

Kenny and Jorgen Jonsson

Kenny Jonsson was a star for the Islanders for many years, while Jorgen Jonsson was an outstanding two-way player for Farjestads in Sweden who was finally coaxed to North America in his mid-20s. (The Islanders had acquired his rights from Calgary in 1998 for Jan Hlavac.) Unfortunately, that came when the Islanders were an absolute mess, in 1999-2000, so he returned to Farjestads the next year and played until 2008-09 at age 36.

My recollection of the time is that Jorgen was headed back to Sweden the next year even before the Islanders dealt him to Anaheim (then still Mighty) down the stretch. But it makes one wonder what might have been if Jorgen had joined the Isles during, say, 2001-02 instead of during the franchise's descent to rock bottom.

Fellow Islanders, Different Eras

Sutter Coda: Ron

Fully half the NHL Sutters would ultimately appear as Islanders. Twin Ron was a rival with the Flyers for many years in the 1980s before being dealt to the Blues for Rod Brind'Amour. With by far the longest Sutter playing career, he would ultimately do time as a Blue, Nordique, Shark, Bruin, Islander and Flame.

His longest non-Flyer spell was with the good late-'90s Sharks teams, but he did sneak in 27 games as an Islander in the lockout-shortened 1995-95 season. He came from Quebec in the Uwe Krupp trade, a trade that also gave the Islanders the pick they used on Brett Lindros.

Mathieu and Martin Biron

Mathieu Biron wasn't drafted by the Islanders, but like fellow Palffy Trade fodder Olli Jokinen he got his start with the Isles at an early age. For Biron, that meant a couple of seasons at age 19 and 20 before being used in the trade that landed Adrian Aucoin, one of Milbury's best deals.

A decade later, it was older brother Martin who would don the Orange and Blue for one season, as Dwayne Roloson's backup and Rick DiPietro's uncomfortable third wheel.

We Got the Good Brother

Pierre Turgeon: To be fair, Sylvain Turgeon was a fine scoring winger in his NHL career with the Hartford Whalers, New Jersey Devils, Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators: A couple of 40-goal seasons among his 269 goals in 669 games. But his brother Pierre's career, with 1327 points in 1294 games, was something else entirely.

Perhaps the highest praise for Pierre is that his performance almost made the departure of Pat LaFontaine (who?) okay.

Griffin Reinhart: The story hasn't been written yet on all three Reinhart brothers, but it's already clear Griffin is the best of the bunch and the one far more likely to have a lasting NHL career.

We Did Not Get the Good Brother

Brett Lindros: It's become almost a gag among fans in recent years: Find me an NHL star and we will draft his weaker brother. There was Brett Lindros of course, the concussion-shortened career that began with GM Don Maloney saying the Isles had landed "the better brother." Joking or not ... not so much.

The Draft Boys: Long after Lindros, there was Blake Kessel (currently in the Flyers organization) and David Toews (dealt to Chicago but with no NHL future). They were both late-round picks, so why not, I suppose. But they are justifiably footnotes on this list.

* * *

I know there are others I omitted or forgot. Have any favorites to add?