Attention: This episode immediately follows the Billy Smith/Roland Melanson Jennings Trophy episode posted last week. If you have not yet, please stop this episode and listen to that one.
For much of the 1982-83 regular season, the Islanders did not look like three-time defending Stanley Cup champions, let alone a team that could win the Cup again. They were old and occasionally leaky, and sometimes they seemed downright disinterested.
But once the playoffs started, the “real” Islanders showed up again, led by the man they called “The Money Goalie.”
Billy Smith didn’t take losing lightly. And he didn’t like being the weak link or the feeling of letting his friends down. After a series against a pesky playoff-debuting Washington team that required the aid of creasemate Roland Melanson to win, Smith became a man on a mission. He battled and scrambled and pushed and parried his way through series victories against the Rangers and Bruins before eventually dismantling the cocky, high-flying Edmonton Oilers and angering all of Canada in the process.
No matter what the Oilers did on the ice or what their coach/GM said or what the media printed, Smith gave it back in spades, refusing to concede even an inch. When the Cup final was over, and Smith was rightfully awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, he continued to vocally lay waste to the people that had made him Public Enemy No. 1 in his home country.
Perhaps more than anyone, Smith felt the condescension or dismissiveness people had for the Islanders despite their success. And he was determined to make them pay for their insolence.
Hooo, boy. This is a fun one. We also touch on the Islanders’ other three Conn Smythe winners and a few that missed out despite some outstanding postseason performances. Guess that’s the price you pay for playing on one of the greatest teams ever assembled.
Here are some extra pictures and stories from the time:
Research and other assistance was provided by Kevin Schultz. Visit 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 ANXIETY20 to get 20 percent off an order of two items. Our portion of the sales go directly 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, “Maven’s Memories: Rollie Melanson, The Forgotten Hero” from newyorkislanders.com and the books New York Islanders: Countdown to A Dynasty by Barry Wilner, Dynasty: The Oral History of the New York Islanders 1972-1984 by Greg Prato and Pride and Passion: 25 Years of the New York Islanders by Stan Fischler and Chris Botta.
The following video clips were also used in the podcast:
- Before they could win their fourth straight Stanley Cup, the Islanders needed Rollie Melanson to get past Washington in the first round.
- Smith saves on 2-on-0 in Game 1 versus the Rangers in the 1983 playoffs.
- All of Game 4 versus the Rangers.
- All of Game 1 versus Boston in the semifinals.
- The deciding Game 6 against the Bruins saw another crucial Smith save 30 seconds in.
- All of Game 1 against the Oilers in the 1983 Stanley Cup Final. Smith’s 2-0 shutout would be a sign of things to come.
- Smith’s post-game comments were just as entertaining as the game was.
- The end of Game 2 saw Smith’s infamous slash on Wayne Gretzky.
- Here’s a short news broadcast version of the same play.
- Game 4 of the ‘83 Cup Final was Smith’s masterpiece. A most deserved Conn Smythe Trophy would await him. At 48:00 is his legendary address/middle finger to all of Canada.
- The four-peat parade on Long Island was a wild scene.
- Here’s Smith giving an interview to WWOR TV (fka “Channel 9”) featuring music from another famous Long Islander.
On the next Islanders Award Winners: Denis Potvin reestablishes himself as the NHL’s best defenseman by embarking into business, taking a more team-oriented approach and opening himself up emotionally.