After beginning life on a four- to five-year cycle, the Canada Cup — the precursor to this month’s World Cup of Hockey — was contested three times between 1981 and 1987.
This coincided with the New York Islanders dynasty, of course, which meant each of these preseason tournaments involved a lot of Islanders participation. It’s definitely worth suggesting that level of wear and tear helped contribute to the dynasty’s end in 1983 and the fast descent of so many of its key figures.
The cover of the November 1987 Islanders News captures this transition perfectly: A headline of “Potvin to Retire, Bossy Out Indefinitely” (never to return, it turned out) foretold what was hitting the franchise, with Al Arbour already a year into his first retirement.
Meanwhile, the Islanders still had significant talent and, per usual, much of it participated in that year’s Canada Cup: Pat LaFontaine for USA, Kelly Hrudey and Brent Sutter — the new Isles captain after Potvin’s retirement — for Canada (Sutter’s brother Duane had been traded that offseason), Tomas Jonsson for Sweden, and Mikko Makela for Finland.
Not quite the Potvin-Trottier-Tonelli-Bossy-Bourne-Sutter representation of years past, but still a good chunk of the roster.
By the final Canada Cup to go by that name in 1991, only LaFontaine (who was holding out and had played his last game as an Islander), Sutter (also on his way out), and Randy Wood would be represent them in the tournament.
Anyway, if the 1980 U.S. gold over USSR was the greatest hockey upset of our lifetime, the 1987 Canada Cup three-game final between Canada and USSR was arguably the greatest tournament final. The biggest names, at the height of pre-trap, free-wheeling 1980s, just before the Cold War ended...with all three games of the final ending in 6-5 scores, two of them in overtime.
Much has been written about that tournament and it’s dramatic clinching goal (with broadcasting legend Dan Kelly doing the play-by-play). Just rest assured it’s worth watching if you ever have access to the DVDs.
Also in this Issue
Anyway, other fun bits from this Islanders News relic:
- A “Where Were You?” feature on the Easter Epic, the 4OT Game 7 win over the Capitals from the previous spring (more on that below)
- A depressing column by Isles trainer Craig Smith explaining all of the measures taken at the end of the previous season (the only one where Bossy didn’t reach 50 goals) and over the summer to address Bossy’s back issues, which amounted to the wearing out of two discs. (Great line: “We’re grateful to the doctors, faith healers and back pain sufferers who offered their opinions...”)
- Potvin’s retirement feature notes his only regret as the 1984 finals loss to Edmonton to stop the Drive for Five, along with an oft-repeated complain about the NHL switching to a 2-3-2 format for the finals that year.
- Jiggs McDonald’s preseason predictions for 1987-88 were reasonable but off: He correctly picked Detroit leaping the Blues for first in the Norris, but he didn’t see Calgary passing ‘87 Cup winners Edmonton in the Smythe, nor the Habs passing one-time division winners Hartford in the Adams. Worse, he didn’t pick the Islanders correctly as eventual Patrick Division winners (he had Philly and Washington finishing ahead of them), nor did he pick the team that ousted the Isles from the playoffs, the Devils, to make it at all.
The Where Were You?
Favorite bits from the “Where Were You?” during the Easter Epic:
- “Jack Abbott of Long Island City ignored his wife’s seductive advances to sit by the radio for three hours listening to the game.”
- “Judy Annesley of Pittsburgh spent the last three-and-a-half periods with her radio turned upside down, high in the air, the only way to gain reception in Pittsburgh.”
- “Debbie Hoff, an undergrad at Bryn Mawr College, was home for Spring Break and listened in her car outside a club in Oyster Bay.”
- “Frank MacDonald, a loyal Islander fan in Prince Edward Island, Canada, was able to pick up the WOR broadcast. However, he yelled so loud at LaFontain’s winner that he woke his neighbors at 3 a.m. PEI time.”
Alright, enough about all that. We’ll try to do more of these as I dig through the basement.
Big thanks to reader WRANGLERRICK for sending me this copy of Islanders News along with some other great artifacts. On that note, thanks to so many of you who’ve sent me little tokens — Frans bobbleheads, Isles and LHH gear for my newborns, cards — over the years.