Denis Potvin is arguably the greatest New York Islanders player ever.
He was, and still remains, the hated target of fans of the arch rival New York Rangers. Ever since the early 1980s, Rangers fans chanted "Potvin Sucks!" And even though Potvin retired in 1988, they continue to do it every time they play the Islanders, even though most of the fans nowadays don't even know why. Maybe they don't even know who this hated Potvin is!
Potvin earned the Rangers fans' hate back in the 1979 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Rangers had a real good shot at making the Stanley Cup final that year, but the upstart Islanders doomed them. Potvin was the center of controversy in that series when he hit Rangers star Ulf Nilsson with a clean and legal check, breaking his ankle. The Rangers hopes were dashed, and the Islanders almost immediately went on to become on of the greatest Stanley Cup dynasties of all time.
Potvin was also one of the greatest players in the history of hockey and constantly tormented Rangers fans of just how good he was with his play. Ultimately the Potvin Sucks chant became a bizarre show of actual respect. He is the Rangers fans' favorite villain.
So imagine this - Denis Potvin was approached by Rangers to come out of retirement and join the Rangers! That would have blown the minds of long time Rangers fans for sure.
The idea was Mike Keenan's. He wanted Potvin to join the Rangers in 1994, six full years after Potvin last played in the NHL. Potvin was living in Miami, working the broadcasts for the expansion Florida Panthers by this time. Potvin briefly considered it.
"Mike asked me in late October of that season if I would be interested in coming back," Potvin said. "He felt he needed a guy like myself to play the power play and be a veteran presence. It was quite flattering, but in the end, I had been retired for almost six years. I put on my rollerblades in Florida and went for a hard skate. Pretty soon, I realized that coming back and playing NHL hockey was not going to happen. I had too much respect for the game to think I could step back into an NHL dressing room and with a very good team. The Rangers, with Brian Leetch and Mark Messier, were very well established."
Everyone, including Potvin himself, wondered what the reaction would have been.
"The No. 5 was also somehow available with the Rangers, so putting on a Rangers jersey with that number would've been something. It was the Rangers, and we had our battles, but what if I made a bad pass and they didn't with the Stanley Cup?"