57° Good Evening
57° Good Evening

Steve Jacobson: Isles' first Cup overflowed with joy

New York Islanders captain Denis Potvin (5) reaches

New York Islanders captain Denis Potvin (5) reaches out to touch the Stanley Cup trophy as teammate Brian Trottier looks on after the Islanders won the NHL championship at Nassau Coliseum. (May 24, 1980) Credit: AP

This column appeared in the May 25, 1980, edition of Newsday

UNIONDALE - Hewlett Bay Harbor and Huntington Harbor rose up and met at the Nassau Coliseum to form the Long Island sound, flooding the building with joy unbounded - and a whole lot of relief. Maybe the day after tomorrow they would fragment again into the countless unrelated communities of Nassau and Suffolk, and even Queens, too, but for one glorious moment, they were Islanders from the real, the one and only Long Island.

The Islanders had given them a sense of unity worthy of the small-town Brandon Wheat Kings. The Islanders dragged their fans up and down and up again on a day more suitable for surfing than hockey. It was their longest hockey season, on into overtime on the last game that would be played in that building this season, and their most rewarding. Those fans had their own bubbling of smuggled-in champagne.

Fans jiggled and jumped up and down and opened that champagne in the seats that had barely contained them all afternoon. The red light still glowed like a phrase from "The Star-Spangled Banner" over the goal at the North Shore end of the ice, and overhead the scoreboard hung in a frozen page of the Stanley Cup record book: Islanders 5, Flyers 4, time stopped at 12:49 at the image in lights of Bobby Nystrom. It was sudden death and the sudden rush that Long Island really never had before, a come-together party the poor Nets never felt.

It was an identity, dispelling the shadow of the big-city superiority the Rangers had cast for so long and the embarrassment of losing to them last year in what could have been called a civic disaster if there had been anything to be called a civic.

"We're not New York, New Yorkers, we're Long Islanders,'' proclaimed Ted Theodoreopolis of North Babylon. "It's a poor man's way to be involved with the team, to be a winner. If they win, you're a winner.''

He had gone to Republic Airport in the middle of the night to cheer the Islanders home from their Thursday night disappointment in Philadelphia. He said he shook hands with all of them except goalie Bill Smith. Bill Smith never shakes hands.

Friday night Theodoreopolis felt at least as much anxiety as the players. Carol, his wife, attested to that. "I said, 'Aren't you coming to bed?' she said. "And he said, 'I can't, I'm too nervous.' ''

Finally, he and all of them, except the handful of Philadelphia fans who braved the Coliseum solidarity, were winners.

Bill Stuart was rewarded for his afternoon being parboiled inside a Levittown-made human Stanley Cup, created by Mike McEnaney from a plastic garbage can, its lid and two plastic chlorine jugs all sprayed genuine silver. They were escorted by Carmine Evola with his hands and face bodypainted - well - carmine. He's a Navy man stationed in South Philadelphia and he enjoyed going to the Spectrum in his makeup and rooting for the Islanders - except for Thursday night.

"I was worried for my life,'' he said. "But I suppose we'd give it to their fans just as bad.''

None of the three had a ticket, but they showed up at the Coliseum at 11 a.m. to present their preview of things to come, and in the great spirit of community, an understanding gatekeeper parted the barriers. The Islanders gave those people their little Miracle on Hempstead Turnpike. A team that vibrated and rattled and struggled in the disappointing aftermath of last season came together through the playoffs to the championship. The game is foreign to Long Island and its trophy is a piece of hardware of mythic significance in another country, but the Islanders taught those people to love it like their own.

But it wasn't easy.

"It's only the first period and I'm exhausted,'' said Susan Sturges of Malverne. It wasn't the heat. When the Islanders stormed down the ice, the fans roared in anticipation. When Bobby Clarke took the puck the other way, women shrieked and grown men implored "Hit him!''

It wasn't easy, no matter what assurance Barbara Stabiner gave. She identifies herself as the resident psychic of Seaford and Sec. 226 and her white-on-purple business card - the one with the picture of the all-seeing eye - says she is a clairvoyant consultant by appointment only.

She said there would be nine goals scored and the Islanders would win. "She said it before the game,'' attested the woman in the next seat, who would identify herself only as Linda. "Actually, she's pretty good,'' said Marty Stabiner, her husband.

"Before we came to the game,'' Barbara said, "I let my mind be quiet and stay free so I could feel the vibrations of the crowd. I could actually feel the outcome.''

The psychic was talking while the game was 4-4. Others may have been nervous; what she said she felt was excitement. She was wearing a cobra ring of green and red stones she said had been given to her when she was a queen of Egypt and she had reclaimed at an antique shop.

There's one quick way to tell if a psychic is a fraud: If you telephone and she says, "Who's calling?'' you know. This psychic has that covered; her answering machine begins, "I knew you would be calling . . . I'm busy at the moment, so please leave your name . . . ''

This clairvoyant consultant smiles a lot. Before the overtime she offered a quick psychic reading to her questioner. "Something good is coming for you,'' she said. "In two months or so. It's an opportunity for some other work, and if I was you, I'd go for it. It will give you a hell of a lifestyle, double your salary. Take it.''

Very interesting. But who's going to score the winning goal for the Islanders? "It's very hard to see under pressure,'' she said. "I just got a flash of Denis Potvin being the hero.''

But she conceded that she was not always right. Maybe the Islanders would lose and not win the Cup. "This is the end of what they call the seven-year cycle,'' she said. "If they don't win now, they can't win for four more years.''

They played seven minutes and 11 seconds and Nystrom put the goal home and Barbara Stabiner kissed Marty Stabiner. "What I saw was Potvin holding the Cup over his head,'' she said. "It doesn't matter who scored it.'' Soon after on the ice, Potvin was holding the Cup over his head in triumph.

Out in the lobby, Dom Valenez was roaring with joy, sweat running off his face onto his tuxedo. He said he had postponed his wedding from afternoon to last night in order to watch the game was going directly to join Ann Slattery at St. Luke's.

Just down around the arc of the building, Linda Dinamonti and her brother Tom of Maspeth were sipping their own joyful champagne. She smiled, her eyes brightened and she emptied the bottle over his head.

It was their moment, and don't think they didn't work for it, too.

New York Sports