Monday, March 3, 2008

My Core memory

Of all the incredible and indelible memories of the Cup run, by far my favorite moment was when the Islanders came back late to win the decisive Game 5 against Pittsburgh at the Coliseum in 1982.

It's my favorite because it's the most personal. My lone sibling, my older brother Nick, was and still is a dedicated fan of the New York Rangers. It clearly was killing him that the team from Long Island I adopted at age 7 in 1972 had so much success, so quickly. Nick dealt with the first two Stanley Cups with a decent amount of dignity, but let's face it - I'm sure he couldn't wait until the shenanigans of Bossy, Trottier, Smith, Potvin and the boys mercifully ended.

That's the way it looked on April 13, 1982 when the Penguins took a stunning 3-1 lead late in the third period of Game Five of the Patrick Division semifinals. The series was tied at 2 games each and this was back in the day when first round series were best-of-five.

My brother and I watched the game on TV that night, and as the minutes counted down - way too quickly for me...9 minutes left, 8 minutes left, 7...I was dying. Nick was surprisingly quiet for a while, but I guess he just couldn't hold it any more. Lying on the couch, he turned around and said to me, "Hey, sorry about this little brother. It's been a great run. It couldn't last forever."

Nice thought, but the Hallmark Hall of Fame moment ended there. As Nick turned away from me he couldn't suppress a huge grin and started to chuckle. Think Jack Nicholson as the Joker. I wasn't laughing.

Seconds later, Mike McEwen (an unheralded dynasty member who we need to get to the Coliseum someday soon) scored at 14:33. Then my guy John Tonelli scored three minutes later to send it into overtime.

When JT scored again at 6:19 of overtime to win the series, it was heaven. For starters, my favorite player had done it again. (Ever notice how JT's mug is in the frame when they show just about every big goal during the dynasty?)

Of course, the dynasty was still alive, although we weren't calling it a dynasty yet. But think about it: without the heroics of McEwen, Tonelli, Bobby Nystrom and their cohorts in 1982, March 2, 2008 isn't possible. "The Core of the Two" just doesn't sound right.

Best of all, brother Nicky was silenced. His agony would continue for another two years, until the magnificent, unparalleled run of 19 straight playoff series victories finally ended in the Cup Final against Edmonton in 1984.

It's funny. Now that we're in our 40s and have children of our own, maturity shows some sign of creeping in for me and Nick. He's been with me at a few functions over the years where the Islanders legends are present. He seems a bit weirded out that I don't just actually know Bossy and Trottier and Denis and JT, but I even sometimes speak complete sentences to them.

But the coolest part of all is, when he meets them, you can tell Nick has the ultimate respect for the heroes of the Islanders dynasty, what they accomplished and the class they displayed through it all. If you think about it, there may be no greater compliment to the Core of the Four.

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