Jean Potvin, a defenseman who played on the primary two of the Latest York Islanders’ 4 Stanley Cup championship teams within the Eighties, died on Tuesday in Weston, Fla. He was 72.
His brother Denis confirmed the death, at a hospital. He said the cause was not yet known, pending an autopsy.
Potvin spent 11 seasons within the National Hockey League, eight with the Islanders. He joined the team from the Philadelphia Flyers in a trade through the 1972-73 season, when the Islanders, then of their first 12 months as an expansion team, were awful.
But Potvin felt that he would get more playing time on a nasty team. He also anticipated, appropriately, that the Islanders would select his brother Denis, who was 4 years younger, as the highest overall pick within the forthcoming N.H.L. amateur draft.
Denis, also a defenseman, became a star within the league and was inducted into the Hockey Fall of Fame in 1991.
“Many individuals consider him as one in all the highest five defenseman,” Jean Potvin told Psyched, a sports psychology magazine, in 2007. “I used to be not in that class. I used to be a better-than-average player, but lucky enough to play with some great teams with the Islanders.”
During Potvin’s first training camp, he developed a skin condition that kept him off the ice for 3 days. That angered Coach Al Arbour.
“Al was screaming at me when he came upon the doctor said I couldn’t perspire for 3 days,” he told The Latest York Times in 2016. Potvin sat within the stands, yelling at teammates for not giving their full effort. They responded by firing pucks at him.
“My teammates even honored me by starting the Jean Potvin Training Camp Award,” he said, “for the guy missing time with probably the most idiotic, unknown or unheard-of injury or disease, those you couldn’t trace.”
The Islanders improved quickly under Arbour and with players like Clark Gillies (who died in January), Bryan Trottier, Bob Nystrom and Glenn Resch. Potvin had his best 12 months through the 1975-76 season, when the Islanders finished in second place within the Patrick Division with 72 points, third best on the team to Trottier’s 95 and his brother’s 98.
In a single game that season, Jean scored three goals within the second period and his brother scored two more in a rout of the Detroit Red Wings. Jean gave a few of the credit for his performance to his recent mouthpiece.
“I told the doctor, ‘Keep making them as fast as you possibly can,’” he said after the sport. “I’m gonna wear a recent one every period.’”
Potvin was traded to the Cleveland Barons in January 1978. He was with Cleveland for the remainder of that season and with the Minnesota North Stars through the 1978-79 season, after the Barons had been absorbed into the Minnesota franchise. He returned to the Islanders as a free agent in 1979 and played part time through the next two seasons, once they won the Stanley Cup, but didn’t take part in the playoffs.
Shortly after they won the Cup in 1980, with Nystrom scoring an additional time goal against the Flyers, Jean and Denis Potvin embraced within the Islanders’ locker room.
“They hugged and cried and spoke to one another softly in French,” Howie Rose, who was then the sports director of WHN radio and later became the Islanders’ television play-by-play announcer, said in a phone interview. “They’d won the Cup and realized the dream that they had had as youths, and to see the tears flowing as they spoke in a foreign language was very poignant.”
Jean René Potvin was born on March 25, 1949, in Ottawa. His father, Armand, was a civil servant; his mother, Lucille (St-Louis) Potvin, was a homemaker and a caterer.
Jean played junior hockey for the Ottawa 67’s (as did Denis) and for the Springfield Kings of the American Hockey League before joining the parent club, the Los Angeles Kings for 4 games within the 1970-71 season. He was with the Kings again through the 1971-72 season during which he was traded to the Flyers.
Once he and Denis were reunited on the Islanders, they became roommates on the road and were paired on the ice during power plays.
“He was a brother, coach, supporter; he would take heed to my beefs and played the intermediary role with Al Arbour, who was tough on everybody,” Denis said in a phone interview. “Hockey News once had us on their cover as ‘the Dynamic Duo.’”
For his 11-year profession, Jean Potvin accrued 46 goals and 167 assists.
Along with his brother Denis, he’s survived by his wife, Lorraine (Pollock) Potvin; his daughters, Kim Lomasney and Leslie Moreau; his son, Justin; 4 grandchildren, and one other brother, Robert.
After he retired, Potvin was the radio analyst for the Islanders until 1989. But he had already begun a protracted profession as a stockbroker and salesman for various investment firms. Most recently he was a senior vp of Catholic Charities of Brooklyn & Queens, specializing in fund-raising.
Sales and fund-raising suited his gregarious personality, Denis Potvin said.
“You may have a room stuffed with people,” he said, “but when Potsy walks in, the party starts.”