In June of 2001, Michael Peca needed a place to play, and the Islanders needed a captain. The two found each other thanks to a post-draft trade, and Peca played an integral role in leading the franchise through a much-needed turn of the millennium renaissance.
Peca wasn’t the biggest player on the ice, but his knack for clutch goals, big hits and leadership helped the Islanders to their best season since the Dynasty years. Along the way, he became the first Islander to win the NHL’s Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. Oh, and he won an Olympic gold medal, too.
Of course, no discussion of the 2001-02 season would be complete without a look at the Islanders’ brutal, punishing playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Peca was one of the key figures in the series, first in action, then in advice, then in his absence. It was the furious final stage of a season full of ups, downs, hot streaks, cold streaks, silence, noise, glory, tragedy and everything in between.
I thought I recalled the season well but It was a lot more tumultuous than I remember. I think that may have been because their 11-1-1-1 start was just so exciting. It was a fun one to revisit. I’m still mad Peca’s Islanders’ tenure was so short, but I am glad I have a replica of his jersey from that era. He’ll always be a personal favorite of mine.
Here are some extra pictures and stories from the time. Because these are more recent articles, they’re archived a little differently than the ones in our previous entries. The layouts have been altered by me, but the text and pictures are of the time.
The Sporting News, July 2, 2001, by Larry Wigge.
The Sporting News, July 9, 2001, by Larry Wigge.
The Sporting News, November 11, 2001, by Larry Wigge.
Research and other assistance was provided by Kevin Schultz. Kevin runs the site LIHockeyHistory.com, its Twitter account @LIHockeyHistory and the new store VintageIceHockey.com, where you can buy t-shirts, hoodies and mugs featuring the logos over over 100 classic hockey teams from all across North America, as well as our own Al Arbour tribute shirt. Use the code LIGHTHOUSE15 to get 15 percent off your order. Our portion of the sales of the Arbour shirt or any sales made using the code will be donated to the Center for Dementia Research.
This episode of Islanders Award Winners was written using archival material from Newsday, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and the book Fish Sticks: The Fall and Rise of the New York Islanders by Peter Botte and Alan Hahn.
The following video clips were also used in the podcast:
On the next episode of Islanders Award Winners: We turn our eyes to the net, where the Islanders’ most cantankerous cage keeper has his best season ever a decade into his career.