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New York Islanders Hall of Famer Denis Potvin

Updated on March 21, 2014

He was the first of only three defensemen in history to win both the Max Kaminsky Trophy in Ontario Major Junior hockey and the James Norris Memorial Trophy in the National Hockey League. Both trophies are awarded to the top defenseman in each league.

Denis Potvin provided solid defense for the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey Association from 1968-69 to 1972-73. However, it was in his final season when he exploded offensively. His 123 points with Ottawa still stand as a team record for most points by a defenseman and had 1970’s hockey fans wondering if this kid from Hull, Quebec was going to surpass Bobby Orr as the top defenseman in the NHL.

In both his final two seasons with the 67’s, Potvin was awarded the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the league’s best defenseman. It was no wonder that the New York Islanders chose Denis first overall in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft. The Islanders were coming off their inaugural NHL season where they lost 60 games. They needed defense and they needed it now.

In just his third season in the NHL, Potvin won his first Norris Trophy. In 1975-76, Denis put up Bobby Orr type numbers with 31 goals and 98 points on a team that was fast becoming one of the best in the league. He would skip a year before winning two consecutive Norris Trophies in 1977-78 and 1978-79. He became one of just a handful of NHL defensemen to tally over 100 points in 1978-79 with 101.

The year after his final Norris Trophy, Potvin led the Islanders to their first Stanley Cup victory. 1979-80 marked the first of four consecutive years when the Cup would remain on Long Island.

Denis remained with New York until his NHL career came to an end after the 1987-88 season. In 1991, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 1992 the Islanders retired his number 5. His was the first jersey number to be retired by the club. The Ottawa 67’s have also retired the number 7 that he wore in junior.

From the time that the Florida Panthers entered the NHL in 1993-94 until the end of the 2008-09 season, Denis worked as a broadcaster for the club. For the 2010-11 season, Potvin returned to his roots in Ottawa to become a broadcaster for the Ottawa Senators. His first go at broadcasting? Potvin was a colour commentator for a 1978 exhibition game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Russian Red Army.


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