BOSTON — Matt Martin was born in Windsor, Ontario, 32 years ago and grew up rooting for the Red Wings first and then the Avalanche because Joe Sakic and goalie Patrick Roy were his favorite players. He knew little of the Islanders’ Stanley Cup dynasty from 1980-83.
That all changed, of course, when the Islanders drafted Martin in 2008. He came to understand the bond the Cup-winning crew has with Long Island. Now he and the current Islanders want to cement their own legacy in franchise lore.
"They have a lot of special memories, special bonds," Martin said before Saturday night’s Game 1 of the Islanders’ second-round series against the Bruins at TD Garden. "As a team, we’re trying to make the same sort of memories here."
The Islanders have advanced to the second round for the third straight season under coach Barry Trotz and they reached the Eastern Conference finals last season for the first time since 1993. But the Islanders have not been to the Cup Final since 1984, when the dynasty torch was passed to the Oilers.
"We want them to do well," Butch Goring, a member of the Islanders’ four Cup winners who later coached the team and is now their television analyst for MSG Networks, said of the alumni. "We want them to have success. We’ve lived it and certainly want this organization to enjoy the same success.
"I think they’ve established something," Goring added. "They play hard every night. As a former coach, that’s one of the things I’m most proud of. I really felt my teams played hard. That’s what the Islanders of today are. When you leave the game, you can look back and whatever success is wonderful. But if you say, ‘I played my best, I played hard night in and night out,’ that’s a pretty good legacy, too. It makes it better if you have a Cup with you."
Trotz said it’s unlikely the Islanders — or any other team — will win four straight Cups, so matching that legacy probably won’t happen.
But the Islanders have kept a core group together long-term — Josh Bailey made his Islanders’ debut in 2008 — and they’ve been through the franchise’s roller coaster fortunes.
"I think what’s very important for this group, they had to fight through some of the growing pains of past regimes," Trotz said. "Now, they’re getting a little bit older. They’re probably on the 13th green right now. They’re looking at it as there’s only so many opportunities that are going to come along.
"They are a very close group. They’re a group that believes in team first. And they’re a group that wants to do something and leave their mark. Everybody strives for the Stanley Cup. If you get it, it’s the pinnacle of a career. At the same time, having established yourself as a good player and a good team for a period of time does leave a legacy."
COVID-19 guidelines restrict the interactions the current players can have. But, pre-pandemic, many of the Islanders’ alumni and current players had plenty of time to bond. Injured captain Anders Lee has talked about the legacy of No. 27 he now shares with John Tonelli and how meaningful that is to him.
Martin mentioned the annual golf tournament Clark Gillies hosts.
"That’s huge having that history and seeing those guys around," defenseman Scott Mayfield said. "Their banners are in our practice rink. Their banners are in our game rink. We’re constantly reminded of it. The fans are so passionate about that time period. We just want to be able to bring that back for them. Try to replicate what they did and bring another one home."
And, of course, Goring is a daily presence.
"We want to impart the same feeling of what you need to do to win," Goring said. "I hope the guys, when they see us or talk to us, see something in our conversations and realize how the competitive level was unbelievable. Everybody talks about the skill level of the Islanders’ dynasty. But the need to win was sky high. We didn’t want to win. We needed to win, and that’s a big difference."