NOTE: This is the first episode of second season of Islanders Award Winners. The rest of the episodes will publish later this year.
In 1975, the Islanders had made an improbable run to the NHL semifinals in just their third season. A year later, a 19-year-old kid from a farm in Saskatchewan would make sure that run was no fluke.
Little about Bryan Trottier’s incredible rookie year makes sense in modern times. A unique underage draft, a boy so humble and quiet he barely said a word all season, an instant No. 1 center who started his career with a hat trick in a five point game in his first appearance at his home arena. Trottier would score throughout the season, finishing with record numbers and helping the Islanders establish themselves as one of the best NHL teams of the mid-70’s. It wasn’t long before he established himself as one of the very best players in the sport... even if you’d never, ever hear him say so.
This episode will cover Trottier’s entire Rookie-of-the-Year season, from his background and drafting, to his adjustment to Long Island, to the stunning way he “controlled the puck like he owns it” from the moment he hit the NHL and finally to the adversity he experienced when his goals dried up at the worst time.
I enjoyed the tour through Trottier’s first season in the NHL. Many of the details of that season have been lost - mainly obscured by Trottier’s and the Islanders later accomplishments - but they’re fascinating nonetheless.
While the franchise and the fans were energized by the kid’s arrival, his presence suddenly made life different for some of the veterans on the team, who suddenly found themselves being shown up by a kid who never spoke, could barely grow a beard and bunked with a local family. But Trottier never let his otherworldly skills go to his head, even during his worst, and really only, slump of the season.
If it’s possible to be a still underrated Hall of Famer, Bryan Trottier might be it.
Here are some extra pictures and stories from the time:
An older article about Trottier’s first family on Long Island, the Amendolas.
A look at Trottier’s musical background.
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 LONGISLAND to get 10 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 Wikipedia, archival material from Newsday, The New York Times and Sports Illustrated, and the books New York Islanders: Countdown to A Dynasty by Barry Wilner, Pride and Passion: 25 Years of the New York Islanders by Stan Fischler and Chris Botta and Dynasty: The Oral History of the New York Islanders 1972-1984 by Greg Prato.
The following video clips were also used in the podcast:
The rest of Islanders Award Winners, Season Two will release later this year. In the next episode, we’ll focus on coach Al Arbour during the season in which he won his only Jack Adams Trophy and the Islanders suffered their most devastating defeat yet.