Potvin Sucks !!
February 25, 2014 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Tonight is the 35th Anniversary of one the most famous chants in American Sports. On Feb 25, 1979, Denis Potvin, NHL Hall-of-Famer, 5 time Stanley Cup Champion, and Captain of the New York Islanders laid a hard check on New York Rangers forward Ulf Nilsson. That hit effectively ended Nilsson's career, and made Potvin the target of unending abuse from Ranger fans. Rangers fans have never forgotten nor forgiven Potvin. To this day, regardless of which team the Rangers are playing that night, if someone whistle's the first few bars of "Let's Go Band," all of Madison Square Garden will erupt in a chant of "Potvin Sucks!"
posted by Flood (31 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Let's Go Rangers!!
posted by ReeMonster at 3:30 PM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's a write up on the hit itself. Seems it was a clean hit but that, by misfortune, Nilsson's skate caught in a flaw in the ice which caused all the force of the hit to be borne by his ankle. Nilsson bears Potvin no ill will and is rather bemused by the endurance of the chant.

It really should have been "*Name of whoever tends the ice* sucks!"
posted by yoink at 3:35 PM on February 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

1940 clap clap clap-clap-clap
posted by JPD at 3:39 PM on February 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Obvs no longer valid. Just wanted to get the mood right.
posted by JPD at 3:40 PM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Potvin, Bossy, Trottier, Smith, Gillies, Goring, Bourne, Tonelli...damn, what a team the early '80s Islanders were.

Nitpick; Potvin "only" won the Cup four times, no?
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:46 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't hate the game, hate the player?
posted by thelonius at 4:03 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Professional sports teams sure are weird tribal entities.

People love some teams and hate others even though the players and coaches and strategies and records change completely over just a few years. They love or hate the Rangers year after year, decade after decade, when the only constants (and even the constants aren't all that constant) are the name and the uniform and the building.

I guess the glue that keeps fans stuck to even the shittiest team is the site and the site-specific rituals and tribal memories, like this Potvin hit on Nilsson from back before most of the current fans were even born.
posted by pracowity at 4:05 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's a write up on the hit itself.

From that article: "The chant proclaims the sentiment that Potvin stinks..." It's an entire article about the Potvin Sucks chant that, due to the Times' weird prudishness, never actually uses the word "sucks"!
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:13 PM on February 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's time for this chant to go. I assumed it had something to do with Felix Potvin for years but I could never figure out what he had done to deserve it. He hadn't done anything, of course, because I had the wrong Potvin. And people younger than me don't even remember Felix.

Which, I guess, actually makes the chant less confusing.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 4:22 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

People love some teams and hate others even though the players and coaches and strategies and records change completely

This sort of varies, too.

10 or so years back, Ottawa and Toronto had a rivalry. Ottawa seemed to be on the verge of breaking out into something great, while Toronto kept chugging along, beating Ottawa every single time they met in the playoffs and dashing all of Ottawa's hopes while failing to go very far, again. The fact Ottawa was fairly new, and Ottawa had traditionally been split between Habs fans and Leafs fans, meant that in Ottawa the rivalry was particularly heated.

Eventually Toronto stopped making the playoffs altogether. Then Ottawa started to suck too. They're both piecing it back together now, and I have to say even as an Ottawa fan I've started to enjoy seeing the Leafs rebuild and enjoy some kind of, uh, moderate success? There's no rivalry right now. I honestly would be happy to see either or both make the playoffs.

Until one of their idiot fans bashes Daniel Alfredsson, who doesn't even play for my team anymore. Then it all comes back. Honestly, the Darcy Tucker thing? Tucker was a dirty bastard and you know it. A complete scumbag, who would tell players he was coming for their knees, and then actually take out their knees. And he becomes the martyr, when the refs blow a hit from behind call? If any Leaf player hit, say, Chris Neil from behind, took the puck from him off the boards, and scored a game winning goal right after, he would be a damned legend in Toronto and you know it. You'd say it was toughness and truculence and those things Toronto fans are supposed to like. But Alfredsson? Nope, he should have just stopped and skated to the box without a whistle.

So yeah. Still a sore spot.
posted by Hoopo at 4:28 PM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

What did it do to Nilsson? The Wikipedia article doesn't say. (I was afraid it broke his back and paralyzed him, or something.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:42 PM on February 25, 2014

busted his ankle. pretty much ended his career.
posted by Hoopo at 4:45 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the record, "Let's Go Band" is actually "Let's Go Blue"
posted by klarck at 4:46 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ok full disclosure, i didn't watch the jr high band clip long enough, does someone yell "Potvin sucks!" at the end?
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:55 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's still relevant, no?
posted by Danf at 5:12 PM on February 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

For the record, "Let's Go Band" is actually "Let's Go Blue"

Yes, this post was clearly written by an Ohio State fan, between the insistence on calling the song "Let's Go Band" and the apparent refusal to link to any of the literally hundreds of YouTube videos capturing the song being performed in an actual sporting context by an excellent first-tier band, in favor of a 6th grade kids' recital (!!). Here are some alternative versions:

Let's Go Blue!
Let's Go Blue!
Let's Go Blue!

And here's a "Hail to the Victors" just because you put me in the mood. (NSF OSU fans.)
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 5:34 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Looked like an ordinary hit to me. We owned season tickets and the ex drove many many miles to attend games. Hockey needs to get rid of those idiotic fights that they allow to interrupt the game.

Oh, and Toronto sucks. Or rather haven't won the championship since 1967. Tampa Bay, Anaheim Carolina and Dallas have won the cup since. Tampa Bay, Anaheim Carolina and Dallas.
posted by vapidave at 5:50 PM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

As late as the 1990's, it wasn't at all unusual to hear the "Potvin sucks" chant at the Garden during Knicks games.
posted by Zonker at 6:51 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was a rabid Rangers fan when I was in junior high school in the mid 80s in New Rochelle, NY, and I remember the first time I went to a Rangers/Islanders game. Not only did the fans yell "Potvin sucks!" but also "Potvin beats his wife!" It was so intense. Like, scary intense. (At the time I couldn't have cared less, I hated all the fighting, I just wanted to see the stickplay and ice action. What can I say, I was a 14-year-old nerdy bookworm girl who for some reason - and for the only time in my life - fell in love with a sport. In retrospect I think it had more to do with crushing on my best friend's brother's friend than on the game itself, but boy did I get into the game for a couple of seasons.) I went to a game a couple of years ago (having not followed the sport since the mid 80s), and Ranger fans still chanted "Potvin sucks!" - and they weren't even playing the Islanders!

That period of following the Rangers was like living in bizarro-world. To this day, New Yorkers identify themselves as a Ranger or Islander fan - like when the ginormous guy who was tattoing a maneki neko on my arm revealed he was an Islander guy. (He was a sweetheart, and *I* ended up teasing *him* relentlessly.)

Just now I looked up the "beats his wife" thing. Turns out he was going through a divorce at the time (1984), and Rangers fans gave him hell for anything and everything. From a New York Times article from that year:

During their series with the Islanders, many Ranger fans continued their season-long chant about Potvin's personal life. They had been after him for several years, since he checked the Rangers' Ulf Nilsson and Nilsson was injured on the play.

''I knew the Garden fans would give it to me again this season, but with more poison, after the divorce,'' Potvin said.

His wife, contesting the financial terms of a separation agreement, said in court that Potvin beat her and also used drugs.

The case is over, the couple is divorced, and, says Potvin, the separation agreement was upheld. Potvin, who did not testify in court, insists now that her charges were not true.

posted by flyingsquirrel at 6:52 PM on February 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Man, just checked Potvin's career stats (yes, "only" 4 Cups), have you seen the +/- the man put up?
posted by riverlife at 6:53 PM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've gone to several Rangers games with my grandfather over the years and one of my biggest MSG regrets is that I have NEVER caught the whistle in time to chant "Potvin Sucks!"

Yes, it's an outdated tradition. But it's one of those things that makes a Rangers game a Rangers game. Without it, the experience feel less like part of something bigger and also, I must admit, a little less fun.
posted by that silly white dress at 7:45 PM on February 25, 2014

The bizarre outdated nature of the chant is part of what makes it great. I'd guess that, at this point, someone could yell it at the end of his funeral and most of the guests would laugh.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 7:57 PM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am one of the rare NYers who likes both the Islanders and Rangers. I grew up on the Island not too far from Roosevelt Field and the Coliseum, but my family had seasons to the Rangers. While I still root for the Blue Shirts, I fell for the Islanders cup teams. They were some great teams. Dennis Potvin was a great talent. He was not up to Bobby Orr's level (no one is and I have a great story about defending Bobby Orr) but he played Orr like. Bossy was quite the scorer. All of them lived on the Island and were accessible if you ran into them. Back then I met Mike Bossy and Clark Gilles. I saw Trots at the car wash a few times. I also loved the Oo-la-la Sasson days of the Rangers.

Now, I live in Westchester and root for the Rangers again. Going to the Garden in the old days, and I went to games in the old Garden as well as the first game in the new Garden (not sure what to call the refurnished current Garden) was such fun for a teenager. It is a knowledgable crowd, at the time a blue collar crowd, drinking beer and screaming. Sitting in the blue seats was an experience. But, the most exciting place I have watched hockey was at the old Chicago Stadium. Lived in Chicago for my 20s and going to games on the west side was incredible. First time I went, the person taking me asked me if I was going to wear what I was wearing to the game. I had on a flannel shirt and khakis. I said, "Why do you ask?" He suggested I change into something I did not care if it got wet. I was drenched in beer by the middle of the first from all the guys with swaying beer cups screaming, "Whatdya got glue in your gloves? Drop em and hit the bastard."

Maybe it is just me pining for the old days of hockey before they became highly paid great athletes and before it cost a week's salary for a seat. But the 70s and 80s hockey was so much fun to go to. Maybe it is why I love the movie Slapshot.

Oh, I ran into John Tonelli recently at the Brewster arena. His son is a really good youth hockey player. I spoke to him for a few minutes. He is a really nice guy.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:01 PM on February 25, 2014

People love some teams and hate others even though the players and coaches and strategies and records change completely over just a few years.

In England fans sing (to the tune of go west) "Stand up if you hate Man u." Obviously everyone stands up.
posted by marienbad at 2:08 AM on February 26, 2014

People love some teams and hate others even though the players and coaches and strategies and records change completely over just a few years.

You're just mad that my city's group of multimillionaires (who aren't from here and don't live here) beat your city's group.
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:37 AM on February 26, 2014

I've told this story before and it's only tangential, but I think it illustrates the beautiful insanity of hockey fandom: my Dad took us to two Bruins games when we were little. By coincidence the two games, a year apart, were Cam Neely's two attempts to return from what turned out to be the career-ending thigh injury Ulf Samulesson (the prick) gave him. The second of these games was against the Penguins at the height of their Cup-winning runs. Not only did Samulesson play for the Pens, but the Pens had become the second or third team to keep the Bruins from their rightful place as Cup winners: they'd been bridesmaids to the Oilers in the '80s and now these mullet-haired bastards had swooped in.

The game was a total letdown. The Penguins won 5-2 and it wasn't that close, Neely was tossed early for trying to fight Samulesson who turtled (I know every sport is a morality play for the passionate, but it seems worse in hockey). In the midst of all this, trying to save some measure of face, a group of Bruins fans is mercilessly taunting the Penguins' goalie with a building chant of—

[I want to stop for a second here and point out it's 5-2 and the Penguins' goalie has just won the last two Stanley Cups, the very pinnacle of success in his chosen field.]

— "HEY BAR-ASS-O, REMEMBAH MAH-TIN-YOOONN!" See, Tom Barrasso might have won a couple of silly Cups, but he lost that high school final. I assume he went home and cried.
posted by yerfatma at 5:51 AM on February 26, 2014

Goddamnit, now I'm mad at Samulesson all over again.
posted by yerfatma at 5:54 AM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

> Yes, it's an outdated tradition. But it's one of those things that makes a Rangers game a Rangers game. Without it, the experience feel less like part of something bigger and also, I must admit, a little less fun.

I'm not a hockey fan and this is one of the few things I know about hockey in general and the Rangers in particular, aside from 1940 and Lester Patrick playing goal at the age of 44 during the Stanley Cup finals of 1928 (the Maroons head coach wouldn't let him use Alex Connell as a replacement, so he did it himself—I read about it in a collection of "great sports stories" and never forgot it). I don't care if it's outdated and/or unfair, it's a great tradition and makes me like the sport (unlike the tradition of violence and "enforcers," which makes me dislike it). I was glad when the Rangers won the '94 Stanley Cup even though I cared nothing about hockey; I guess I'm just a New Yorker at heart.
posted by languagehat at 6:18 AM on February 26, 2014

I'm surprised that the business types that can afford tickets to a Garden game actually tear themselves from talking on their cellphones long enough to chant.
posted by Splunge at 7:17 AM on February 26, 2014

Happy to hear that the Islanders won't be staying forever in Brooklyn. It's so weird and awesome that a major sports team plays way out on Long Island.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:45 AM on February 26, 2014

Let's Go Band

I can hardly believe I was rickrolled into watching a full minute and a half of that thing. Well done.
posted by 0 at 7:49 AM on February 26, 2014

« Older 28 Books You Should Read If You Want To   |   Double Vision Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments