These days, Bryan Trottier likes reminiscing. He likes telling the stories about his time with the Islanders and his old teammates, and the electricity that seemed to course through the crowd at Nassau Coliseum when he played. He's even open about how hurt he was when the Isles released him in 1990.
"At times," he said Friday, "you feel like you're almost drowning in those memories."
Friday was one of those drowning types of days. Trottier, the center of the dynasty years and the man with the most points in Islanders history, dropped the puck before the Islanders-Penguins game Friday night, one of his last acts in the arena "where I grew up," the Saskatchewan native said. (Trottier, a Buffalo Sabres assistant coach, will return to the Coliseum in April.)
Trottier won four Stanley Cups with the Islanders and won two more with the Penguins, the team that took him in when many thought his productive years were over. "For me, it's the added part of having Pittsburgh here, where I enjoyed some real fun years and some successes," he said.
And then there was the moment of silence for former teammate and friend J.P. Parise, who succumbed to cancer last week.
"He made me feel like I had something to give . . . It made me feel like I was a young, upcoming kid," Trottier said of Parise. He remembered "watching him practice. J.P. was a practice maniac. He practiced as hard as he played . . . and his booming voice and his long name -- 'I am Jean-Paul Joseph-Louis Parise' -- that deep voice. He was just a great guy and you remember your last conversation with him, when we heard he was battling cancer, just how upbeat he was. That was J.P."
Trottier recalled being a young player and quickly buying into the excitement that surrounded the Islanders in the early '70s. He would feel "that elation of the crowd, the atmosphere and the locker room . . . I want to be a part of this, I want to be a part of this. I have to be a part of this," he said.
Long Island embraced the Islanders, he said, and the players -- mostly kids far removed from their families -- loved every minute. "We wanted to dive right into the community and be a part of everything," he said. "The invitations just never seemed to stop . . . We felt we were a bigger reflection of the Long Island identity, which is one of acceptance and wonderful loyalty."
The Hall of Fame center amassed 1,353 points with the Islanders.
The good times, though, didn't last. Post-dynasty, the Islanders released Trottier after a precipitous drop in production. "When I first was let go, it hurt, it was painful," he said, stressing that he never once spoke ill of the team publicly. "But like anything, time has a way of making some of that pain go away . . . You know, it's like you break up with a girlfriend, and oh, you find another girlfriend."
Ties have long since been mended, and Trottier even served as the Islanders' executive director of player development before joining the Sabres. His number 19 is in the rafters at the Coliseum.
Though Trottier likes talking about the past, there's something to be said about the present, too. Leaving the Coliseum is sad, he said, but Brooklyn "could be an exciting opportunity for this organization."
"But this would be my first opportunity to see this place rocking [again],'' he said. "Whenever it's full and the team is doing well and you have great competition on the ice, this place can make some noise. I'm looking forward to experiencing it one more time."
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