Denis Potvin deserved better than New York Islanders fans gave him.
There is no greater dichotomy in sports than the loyal and fickle nature of its fans. Fan culture and its mob mentality are the very things that keep it alive and it can be an amazing thing. People have an incredible capacity for unifying and coming together to support something that moves them, whether it’s something wrenching on a global scale or something far less life-altering as who wins a hockey game.
Even in the world of sports, fans need to keep their focus and use their powers for good and that doesn’t include harassing children in away sweaters, smoking in the stands, or pouring their beer on anyone.
Denis Potvin is a legend in New York Islanders history. He captained and quarterbacked a team into the annals of the NHL that is to this day unparalleled. He never wore another NHL team’s crest and on some level that gives fans some kind of ownership of him. It’s difficult to understand that there is life after playing in the NHL.
These men still need to make a living and Potvin is making his living elsewhere. His loyalties have changed and that’s a tough pill to swallow, though that seems to be exasperated by comments Potvin’s made in the midst of this first round matchup with the Panthers. Potvin is a fan now and the fickleness of the game applies to him as well.
Amidst the psychology and emotion of playoff hockey and what it actually means to the New York Islanders and its fanbase to win, there is still no excuse for the behavior exhibited or allegedly exhibited to Potvin and his colleague. When Islanders fans were as appalled as the rest of the NHL for the behavior exhibited in Philadelphia during their first round matchup with Washington, a few made news and essentially tainted an entire fanbase with their own graceless act. Something that made throwing rats look far less obnoxious than it actually is.
Losing hurts and maybe it hurts more for some than others but it takes a special kind of ego to make that claim. Perhaps the hurt, though, lies in the fact that Potvin, who bled for these fans didn’t understand that the act of one or even a handful of people doesn’t represent the whole. There were thousands of people in that building who would have lined up to hand him their towels and make amends because they understand the respect deserved not just to him, but anyone.
Still, some kind of responsibility and apology are necessary. It’s the right thing to do and it’s unfortunate that so much of the time that notion is something lost. This is a humble attempt at that from a fan who never got to truly experience him, but has always understood the importance of his legacy.