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The Islanders Stick It To 'Em
E.M. Swift
May 24, 1982
New York won its third straight Stanley Cup as sharpshooter Mike Bossy fired bull's-eyes in an imposing sweep of Vancouver's Canucks
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May 24, 1982

The Islanders Stick It To 'em

New York won its third straight Stanley Cup as sharpshooter Mike Bossy fired bull's-eyes in an imposing sweep of Vancouver's Canucks

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With the score tied 4-4 at 4:27 of the third period, two old adversaries, Williams and Smith, squared off in what proved to be the pivotal episode of the game. The Canucks were on a power play, and Williams had camped in front of Smith as a screen. Smith immediately whacked him on the ankles. Williams slashed back and then pounced on him. Referee Ron Wicks sent Williams to the penalty box for four minutes, but Smith got only two minutes. Trottier scored the winning goal on the resulting power play. "That's what cost them the game," said Smith afterward. " Williams was stupid. He was backing in on me all night, and Wicks told me he was watching it. I told him, 'Fine, keep watching.' And he did. I thought he called a super game."

The Canucks and the Islanders flew to Vancouver for Game 3 on Thursday night. The Canucks were greeted at the airport by an adoring crowd, which one policeman estimated as being "more than 5,000 and less than a million." They were pawed and backslapped to exhaustion, leading a local paper to run the headline CLUTCH-AND-GRAB FANS HAIL CANUCKS, in wry response to the media's endless references to the team's style of play. The last hometown club to win the Stanley Cup was the Vancouver Millionaires in 1915, so Cup fever was high. Black-and-gold bumper stickers reading KING RICHARD, in recognition of Richard Brodeur's stellar goaltending earlier in the playoffs, abounded, and the white towels that had become the Canucks' symbol during their semifinal defeat of the Black Hawks sold like crazy. The T-shirt vendor who had started that craze, Butts Giraud, is a former world belly-flop champion. People stood in line for as many as 40 hours to purchase tickets to Game 3, and the inevitable alcoholic concoctions that are born of such frenzy began cropping up in bars, the most offensive of which was the Canuck Cafe, espresso doused with everything yellow and black: mocha liqueur, banana liqueur, Galliano, Pernod.

As if the fire needed any more fuel, on Thursday The Vancouver Sun ran a banner headline that read: "THAT SUTTER'S A COMPLETE JERK." The quote, attributed to Williams, referred to Duane. Several other Canucks complained of the Islanders' lack of "class," and they cited Duane's mocking of Brodeur with his fist in Game 2 after scoring a goal. Responded a mildly miffed Sutter, "I don't think Williams knows how to spell the word class."

But it was brother Brent who took the sweetest revenge on the slur on the family name. In Game 3 his tenacious fore-checking was "inspirational," according to Arbour, as the Islanders played what Snepsts later described as "airtight hockey." Said Canuck Coach Roger Neilson, "I don't know if anybody could have beaten them tonight. They played an almost perfect game."

After Gillies put New York up 1-0, Bossy scored the most spectacular goal of the playoffs. With 7:30 remaining in the second period, he picked up his own rebound and, after getting knocked into the air by Defenseman Lars Lindgren, backhanded the puck past Brodeur and a sliding Colin Campbell. "I don't remember how many shots I took at it," Bossy said, "but the one that went in was going to be my last because I was going down."

'It's doubtful whether anyone else could have scored on that play. "Two years ago, even Bossy wouldn't have scored it," said former Islander Eddie Westfall, now a TV color announcer for the team. "He would have let himself be taken out of the play. You can't teach a guy like Bossy how to score that goal, but he can teach himself. And he has."

Indeed, of all the elements that make up the Islanders, Bossy's scoring touch may be the one they could least afford to lose. He finished the regular season, his finest ever, with 147 points, a total only Wayne Gretzky and Phil Esposito have surpassed. Yet, because of Gretzky's remarkable season, Bossy's achievements went largely unnoticed. In the final week of the regular season he tore cartilage and strained ligaments in his left knee. He was virtually immobile against Pittsburgh, and it's no coincidence that the Islanders very nearly lost that series. In a gallant show, they scored two goals in the last 5� minutes of the deciding game to tie the Penguins, and Tonelli won it in overtime. Bossy, who kept the extent of his injury a secret, played with a heavy brace on his knee that restricted his skating. Still, he led all playoff goal scorers with 17, and had 27 points, second only to Trottier's 29. "You can never let Bossy have anything out there," said Canuck Forward Stan Smyl. "He's got such, marvelous talents, such quick hands."

"Other guys, if you make a mistake, you have time to recover," said Snepsts. "Not with Bossy."

Make no mistake, Bossy is far more than just a sniper, a fact that's often overlooked because he plays on a line with Trottier. The truth is, they need each other equally. Bossy has become an excellent corner worker, is sound defensively, and his mere presence on the power play opens up avenues for Potvin, Trottier and Stefan Persson. He also has learned to "operate in a closet"—a hockey term for making a play in heavy traffic—as was so brilliantly demonstrated by his goal in Game 3. "I've worked too hard in my career to let myself fall on my back in a situation like that," said Bossy. "I know I'm playing on a great team. I've known that since I've been here."

The Islanders scored one more goal in Game 3—into an empty net—to win 3-0 and take a virtually insurmountable lead in the series. That night Arbour, as is his habit, sat in bed and watched tapes of the game until 4 a.m. "I can't sleep anyway after a game, so I might as well be doing something," he said. He finally dozed off, but at 6 a.m. his wife, Claire, elbowed him awake. She couldn't sleep because of the time change, so she asked him to put the tapes on again. What the heck, he thought, he might as well watch them with her. If there's one type of game an old defenseman can sit through three times, it's a shutout. "I called room service for breakfast," said Arbour, "and when the guy came at 6:30 and found us watching a hockey game in bed, he thought he'd walked into a nut house. That's what happens when you stay around this game too long."

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