Former Islanders defenseman Jean Potvin has passed away, the team announced this evening. He was 72.
Born in Ottawa, Potvin played 402 games with the Islanders over two stints, 1973 to 1978, then again from 1979 to 1981. His best seasons were all with the Islanders, including a 17-goal, 55-assist campaign in 1975-76. Overall, he had 46 goals and 167 assists with the Islanders for 213 points. Potvin also appeared in 39 playoff games, scoring two goals and 11 assists. He was part of the Islanders first two Stanley Cup championships.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Potvin family,” Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello said. “Jean was a leader on the ice, helping the organization win two Stanley Cup Championships. He made his home on the island and was always such a friendly face in the community. We send our sincere condolences to all those who grieve his loss.”
Potvin was acquired from the Flyers in March of 1973 for Terry Crisp as the Islanders were about to complete their inaugural season. At the time, Potvin was only 23 but had already played 110 games between Los Angeles, where he first signed in 1969, and Philadelphia, who acquired him in a big trade in 1972. He brought a young veteran presence to an Islanders squad that was looking for any talent after a difficult 12-win expansion year.
He also happened to be the older brother of Denis Potvin, who was expected to be the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft. With Jean already on board, Islanders GM Bill Torrey made it clear that Denis would be the team’s pick, no matter how hard other GMs, particularly Montreal’s Sam Pollack, would try to entice him otherwise.
Together, the Potvin brothers would help guide the Islanders to their first playoff series in 1975, and to three straight runs to the NHL semifinals. Jean wasn’t just “The Other Potvin.” He could score, could play Al Arbour’s stringent defense, and he could fight, throwing down with Terry O’Reilly among others.
Jean was traded to Cleveland in January, 1978 along with J.P. Parise, for Wayne Merrick and Darcy Regier. He re-signed with the Islanders in July of 1979, just in time for the dynasty to take off.
Beginning in 1980, Potvin went into broadcasting, working Islanders radio games. He was on the mic when the Islanders won their first Stanley Cup, and can be heard yelling “Yes!” on this call with Bob Lawrence on WGBB radio.
Potvin would work Islanders radio broadcasts until 1989.
Jean Potvin was a fan favorite from the beginning and an early mainstay on which the entire franchise was built. Having him already on the Islanders when he got here helped ease Denis into the NHL and on the path to his own Hall of Fame career. Combining with Denis gave the nascent Islanders a defense pair that could do it all and could stabilize a game, as the team acquired more and more talent throughout the 1970’s. When given a shot at free agency, he immediately returned to Long Island to reteam with his friends and brother.
Off the ice, “Potsy” was a beloved friend and teammate to many, and a frequent presence at games after his retirement. Like many Islanders players, he settled on Long Island and made it his permanent home. It’s hard to find a picture of Jean Potvin that doesn’t show him smiling.
May he rest in peace and our sincerest condolences to the entire Potvin family.
I remember after the Islanders won their first Cup I was in the locker room interviewing Denis and right in the middle of it, Jean came over. He and Denis tearfully embraced for several moments, talking softly in French. They had grown up dreaming of that day. Very emotional.— Howie Rose (@HowieRose) March 16, 2022