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Denis Potvin says he’s honored by bobblehead night at UBS

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Denis Potvin became the first Islander to have his number retired when his No. 5 was raised to the rafters at Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 1, 1992. 

As the Islanders celebrate their 50th anniversary this season, the team has planned a lot of special nights, including a series of bobblehead giveaways honoring all of the players who have had their number retired.

Appropriately, Potvin’s bobblehead will be the first giveaway this Friday night, Dec. 2, to the first 10,000 fans in attendance when the Islanders host the Nashville Predators at UBS Arena.

For Potvin, the Islanders’ 50th anniversary season is very special.

“I’m going to act as an ambassador for the Islanders helping celebrate hopefully a successful season and the playoffs,” Potvin told greaterlongisland.com. “It means a lot to me because we’re reaching back to our roots.”

There are times when bobbleheads don’t really look a whole lot like the actual person and sometimes there isn’t much attention to detail. That is not expected to be the case with Potvin, who has been working closely on this with Ann Rina, the Islanders’ senior director of community relations.

“Ann must have sent me four or five different sketches and pictures and what the boxes are going to look like,” said Potvin. “[Legendary hockey writer and broadcaster] Stan Fischler is writing a little paragraph on each one of the bobblehead boxes.”

Potvin, a three-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman, was particularly interested in some very specific details of how the bobblehead would look and those details went right down to how he held the stick during his career.  

Potvin is a left-handed shot and — after looking at one of the initial designs — illustrated to the Islanders that a couple of changes.

“My right glove is about an inch or two down the stick so you see the butt end of the hockey stick,” said Potvin, who was enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. “I said move that arm so it covers the end of the hockey stick because if you look at any picture, you don’t see the end of the stick.  It’s in the right hand.”

There was also a detail to work out with the helmet on the bobblehead.

“I had a very specific helmet,” said Povtin. “It was very different and very comfortable for me.”  

Coming up to Long Island from Florida for his bobblehead night is just one of many reasons why this 50th anniversary season means so much to Potvin. 

He was the first overall pick in the 1973 NHL Draft, so his association with the franchise began as a 19-year-old for the Islanders’ second season in the National Hockey League.

He spent many years as a broadcaster for the Florida Panthers, but make no mistake about it — Potvin has always been a New York Islander and that’s what makes this season so important to him.

“It means everything,” said Potvin. “I grew up as an Islander. We all grew up. We became men in a place called Long Island that was great to us. The fan base was terrific. 

“It wasn’t unusual to be invited out for the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah; and I remember having a Christmas dinner with an Italian family. We were really embraced by the fans of Long Island.”

Madeleine Potvin, 2 1/2, shares the limelight with her father, New York Islander Denis Potvin, as they wave to fans at the Nassau Coliseum during a ceremony in his honor following the Islanders-Washington Capitals game in Uniondale, N.Y., April 1, 1988. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Last season, the Islanders celebrated the opening of their new home UBS Arena and Potvin was there for opening night last November. But last season turned out to be difficult for the Islanders in more ways that one. There was the season-opening 13-game road trip while the team waited for construction of the building to be completed. COVID outbreaks and injuries also contributed to the Islanders never being able to get on track and subsequently not making the playoffs.

It was also in season in which Islanders Country suffered the loss of three beloved men as Clark Gillies, Mike Bossy and Jean Potvin, the older brother of Denis, all passed away.

“I see (the 50th anniversary season) as a tribute to the guys we lost,” said Potvin. “Potsie was my best friend in life. Part of the way I’m going to celebrate the 50th anniversary will be by remembering those guys who were so close to us and so much a part of our success throughout those years.”  

New York Islanders defenseman Denis Potvin, third left, responds to the admiration of teammates after scoring the Islanders second goal in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., Jan. 10, 1977. Surrounding Potvin are, from left: Clark Gillies, Brian Trottier and Bob Bourne. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The captain of the all four Islanders Stanley Cup championship teams is also especially happy about the direction of the franchise. Following the dynasty years, the Islanders went through a series of peaks and valleys with some playoff appearances, many dark moments in team history, and multiple ownership changes.

But now, with the ownership team of Scott Malkin, Jon Ledecky and Dewey Shay, the Islanders have a state-of-the-art home and they’ve enjoyed some playoff success including back-to-back trips to the NHL’s final four.

The ownership steered the franchise on course with the hiring of President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello late in the 2017-18 season.

“This is a great ship that just couldn’t find the dock and finally it has,” said Potvin. “(UBS Arena is an) incredibly beautiful building. The 50th anniversary will mean a lot to everybody but maybe different for everybody in the way they look at it.”  

And, of course, everyone at UBS Arena on Friday night will be looking closely at the Denis Potvin bobblehead.  

Potvin hasn’t seen the final product just yet, but he seems to be really excited about it. 

“Hey, I look what I look like,” said Potvin. “You’re not going to make me into a model so it’s going to look very good.”

Regardless of how the bobblehead looks, Denis Potvin is Islander royalty and it will certainly mean a lot to the fans in attendance to get a chance to see him and help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise.

Top: Former New York Islander Denis Potvin shakes hands with New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) and his teammates after Potvin dropped a ceremonial puck before the NHL hockey game between the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)