If there’s one thing we know, it’s how hard it is to be an NHL champion — let alone four in a row like the New York Islanders did in the early 1980s.
By the time they hoisted their first of four in 1979, the Islanders had already made deep runs in each of the five prior seasons. For two key cogs in the team in Clark Gillies and Bobby Nystrom, it made the victories so much sweeter.
“I always go back to 1978 and 1979 and what a bitter taste that left in our mouths,” said Gillies of falling to the New York Rangers in the second round of the playoffs. “To win, to find out what a sweet taste that was. We were still a very young team and the personnel had not changed from the first year. So we were still all very hungry.
“We knew we had another shot. That was great, let’s do it again! That was the feeling amongst everybody. We were a very good hockey team and we had every right to repeat. Let’s go out there and do it again. We all had the same mindset. Our only outcome that we all wanted was to win the cup again.”
No matter who came in their way, those Islanders seemed to continue to push through any competition that came their way. Even though they didn’t seem to have many issues in winning four in a row, those cups never felt automatic.
“There was always doubt,” said Nystrom, in an interview with NHL betting site Betway. “There were some very, very good teams. “We knew each year that we were going to have to do our best and play our best and overcome adversity. It’s just not an easy thing to win.”
One of the things that helped, however, was having a consistent coach. The legendary Al Arbour ran the bench on the Island from 1973-74 through 1985-86.
“I’ve always said that one of our biggest assets was that he knew each and every guy on that team,” said Gillies. “He knew what buttons to push.”
The days of the dynasties? Well, the pair think those days are long gone.
“I think it’s impossible (to replicate now),” he said. “We had most of our team together for those Stanley Cups. That’s unheard of. A guy will have a great season and they’re moving on to another team for more money. That really never happened with us.”
“We had 16 guys that were on all four Cup teams,” added Gillies.
You can see the full interview plus more NHL tips at the Betway Insider.