NY Islanders: 44 year anniversary of Denis Potvin's clean hit on Ulf Nilsson
There would be no "Potvin Sucks" or "Potvin Socks" without the events that transpired 44 years ago.
On February 25, 1979, at Madison Square Garden, Ulf Nilsson, a promising 28-year-old forward for the New York Rangers in his first NHL season, was leveled into the boards by New York Islanders legend Denis Potvin. The hit, while clean, resulted in a broken ankle for Nilsson, and he was never the same. He had 27 goals and 39 assists through 54 games with the Blueshirts when the hit and injury occurred. He had 30 goals in 111 games and was out of the NHL after the 1982-83 season.
The Rangers went on to play in the 1979 Stanley Cup Final that season, defeating the favored Islanders on their way before falling to the Montreal Canadiens. Blueshirt fans have long wondered whether that series and the years that followed would've been different with a healthy Nilsson.
Potvin and Nilsson were forever linked in the Islanders-Rangers rivalry lure. To his credit, Nilsson never held any ill will toward the Hall-of-Fame Isles defenseman and believed the hit, while hard, was clean. Many of his teammates agreed, as did broadcasters such as Howie Rose. Nevertheless, without the hit, there wouldn't be one of the longest-running, yet inaccurate chants in sports history.
In recent years, Rangers fans have debated whether the chant should be retired, as the younger fanbase feels it's a bit tired and outdated. Meanwhile, Potvin continues to embrace and have fun with it. Earlier this season, he released "Potvin Socks," with 10% of the proceeds going to the Islanders Children's Foundation. "You've been chanting it for 43 years. Now you can wear it!", the decorated defenseman declared back in October.
The Rangers can keep their "Potvin Sucks". The Islanders will keep Potvin's Cups and we should all should own a pair of Potvin's socks.