As an 18-year-old New York Islanders fan, rooting for this team hasn’t been easy. At least nowhere near as easy as it was for the previous generation of Isles fans. Four consecutive Stanley cups, 19 straight playoffs wins, nine 50+ goal seasons for Mike Bossy and that’s just scratching the surface.
The NHL is looking to crown the greatest team in history and those New York Islanders teams in the early 80s are clear cut contenders. So in honor of the great Isles teams, here’s a rundown of what made the New York Islanders so great in the 1980s.
The Start of a Dynasty
The date was May 24th 1980, one that will be forever etched in Islander history. We all know the story, game six at the Coliseum with the Isles up 3-2 in the series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Philly forced overtime in the 3rd period leading to the famous “Tonelli to Nystrom” goal. And that was only just the beginning. I can’t even imagine the jitters of going through a OT game in the finals let alone how Isles Twitter would explode.
Never Say Die
The Islanders finished 1981-82 season at the top of the NHL standings. But they found themselves down two goals with about five minutes remaining in the decisive game five against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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Story has it that the penalty box attendant said to Bob Nystrom “I cant believe its over” referring to the Islanders’ run. But Nystrom wasn’t having it.
Coach Al Arbour made an unconventional move and switched goalies. Back then the new goalie would have to take a couple test shots before entering the game. This allowed the Isles skaters to get some breathing time.
They would tie the game and force OT which was no stranger to the team. The Islanders were outstanding in overtime periods, practically unbeatable. This game was no different.
The Isles’ never say die attitude propelled them to 19 straight playoff series wins, a record among all North American sports.
The New York Islanders were perfect in the 1982 and 83 Stanley Cup Finals. That’s right, they swept the Vancouver Canucks in ’82 and the Edmonton Oilers the following season to capture Stanley Cup number four.
The most notable coming against a young Wayne Gretzky and the high scoring Oilers who would end their streak the following year. These two sweeps in the finals really solidified the Islanders dynasty. No team was even close to beating them.
The Battle of New York
The Rangers-Islanders rivalry flourished in the 80s. The Battle of New York became an annual spring showdown in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Our cross-town rivals had some pretty good teams back in those days but they were no match for the great Islander teams.
In the 1984 playoffs, the series would go to a decisive game 5. A controversial high stick goal by the Rangers took the game into OT. The Islanders defeated their big city rivals in exciting fashion en route to a fifth straight appearance the in the finals.
The New York Islanders teams of the 80s gave their fans lifelong memories and stories that are now being passed on to the next generation of Isles fans. To us, the new generation, it’s hard to believe the Islanders were that good.
Isn’t that what makes a team the best in NHL history? Mind blowing accomplishments that were so impressive, that even their fans find too good to be true. Those Islander teams were truly the greatest to ever play.