Howie Mooney
FiredUp Network Sports Writer


Saturday, July 22, 2023


On April 26, 1975, a Saturday, the Islanders completed a generational comeback by taking the last four games of their second-round best-of-seven series against the Pittsburgh Penguins after trailing in the set by an 0-3 deficit. After vanquishing the Pens – and history – the Isles celebrated at a midtown Pittsburgh hotel. They likely celebrated more on the Allegheny Airlines flight back to LaGuardia and perhaps even more after that. The only issue could have been if the team felt that winning the series was a finish line rather than as a starting point.

Islanders’ captain Eddie Westfall talked about the emotional letdown the team experienced after they defeated the New York Rangers in the first round. “No doubt about it. This team is very young, and it got into such high gear against the Rangers that there was a psychological after effect. It was a great error on our part. We won’t make it again.” Only time would tell if his words would be proven true or not.

It was one of those curious things, especially if the team was celebrating as hard after winning a series in the middle of the playoffs, as opposed to maybe the final series.

Just three days later, a Tuesday night, the youthful Islanders were skating on the Spectrum ice surface in a very hostile Philadelphia as one of the final four clubs in contention for the Stanley Cup. It was just the third year of existence for this franchise. They had grown exponentially from one of the worst teams in the history of the league into a team that now had to be taken seriously in the Stanley Cup discussion.

It was exactly the trajectory their general manager, Bill Torrey, had predicted for the Isles when he took over the operation at the birth of the team in 1972. After that dreadful first year, in which the team had two coaches, Phil Goyette and Earl Ingarfield, and won just twelve games out of the 78 on their schedule, Torrey hired Al Arbour to work behind the bench for the 1973-74 season.

“I knew Al from the American League, when I was in Pittsburgh, and he was coaching in Rochester. I thought he did a good job in the minors and in St. Louis too. I think our overall team attitude is as good as any in the NHL and Al deserves a lot of credit for that. The rapport has to be there. Al makes them work, but he makes it fun too.”

Torrey and Arbour had an interesting dynamic, certainly one that might not work elsewhere and was likely unique to this pair. As games were in progress and as Arbour was focused behind the bench, Torrey would be upstairs, feverishly making observations and notes for his coach, and at the intermissions, the two would confer and share their information together. Torrey was careful though, only to do it because Arbour was amenable to the notion. 

“I would not do that if Al didn’t like it – some coaches would not – but Al likes the idea. I can see things up there that he can’t. A coach actually has the worst seat in the house, and I have the TV monitor too.”

The task at hand for Al Arbour and his young charges was the defending Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers who had just swept the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yes, the Leafs had taken the Flyers to overtime in the fourth game, but it was still over in just four games. While Denis Potvin, Eddie Westfall and company were toasting their seven-game series victory in Pittsburgh and in the air on the flight home, and perhaps on the ground in New York, the Flyers were sleeping in their own beds for a week and a half, awaiting their now-tired, sore and perhaps hungover opponents.

One thing that may have been of aid to the challengers was the fact that the goaltender for the defending champs was not all that well health-wise. Bernie Parent was out with a pinched nerve in his back that caused him to feel shooting pains from the neck down. The Flyers would have to make do with Wayne Stephenson in Parent’s stead.

But Stephenson wasn’t some young kid. By this time, he was a 30-year-old veteran. Philly’s three goalies in 1974-75 were Parent, Stephenson ad Bobby Taylor. Parent had played 68 games during the campaign. Stephenson had played twelve, while Taylor appeared in three. Oh, and of the three netminders, Parent was the youngest of the group.

For the Islanders, in the first game of this series, the object was to find their legs and acclimate themselves to a new opponent. In that regard, they deserved an F-grade. The Flyers’ Don ‘Big Bird’ Saleski scored the only goal of the first period, on an assist from Stephenson, and the Spectrum crowd was quite happy. In the third minute of the second period, Bill Barber added to the Philly lead with a goal from Dave Schultz and Rick MacLeish. With just less than two minutes left in that middle frame and Ed Van Impe in the box for tripping, Bobby Clarke put the game pretty much out of reach. After two periods, it was 3-0 for the Flyers.

A minute and a half into the final period, MacLeish got a puck past Chico Resch to round out the scoring. That didn’t end the action though. At the 1:59 mark of that third stanza, Garry Howatt and Dave Fortier of the Islanders, and Orest Kindrachuk and Dave Schultz of the Flyers, were all sent off for fighting. It was perhaps a sign that the Islanders were trying to send a message to everyone that they were now awake and ready to play in Game Two of the series!

Chico Resch had played in goal for the Isles and he took responsibility for the loss. When he was asked about the first goal by Saleski, Resch answered, “Stupidity is my only excuse. It came in about two feet off the ice. I was dropping down to block it, but it went off my blocker to the right. A guy should never score from that far out.”

Clarke’s goal, that made it 3-0, was another one that Resch blamed himself for. The Isles were on a prolonged power play on overlapping penalties to Clarke and Van Impe. Clarke’s penalty ended at the 18:11 mark of the second. “That was my fault,” Resch said. “Billy Harris had it, but I saw Clarke sneaking in there when he came out of the penalty box.” Clarke stole the puck from Harris and had a breakaway on the Islanders’ goal.

Resch felt he should have let his teammate know that the Flyers’ player was closing in on him. “I should have hollered something. That was part of my trouble. I wasn’t communicating well.” Arbour made the decision to replace Resch with Billy Smith for the second game of the series. That game saw a renewed vigour from the visiting Islanders. Sadly, the result would eventually be the same.

Before the second period of the game was a minute old, the Flyers had built a 4-1 lead and things looked quite bleak for the visitors. The score stayed that way past the halfway point of the frame. But a power play marker by J.P. Parise pulled his team to within two. Two more Islander goals within fourteen seconds of each other in the third period tied the game and it remained tied after sixty minutes.

But less than two minutes into the extra time, Bobby Clarke got one past Smith to give his team a 2-0 lead in the series with the teams heading over to Long Island. There was a bit of controversy following Clarke’s goal though. The play resulted from a rebound off a Ross Lonsberry shot which came out into traffic in front of Smith. There were some that alleged that Clarke had directed the puck into the net with his foot. The Flyers’ centreman denied that when he spoke with the reporters after the game.

“Naw, I didn’t kick it or nothing. It hit him (Smith) and came right out in front. It hit my skate, but I don’t think I got my stick on it. I don’t really know what happened. It was rolling very fast and it just slid underneath him,” he said. Clarke praised his opponents for their comeback. “They outplayed us the last two periods and in overtime.” 

“They had the puck all the time. The only time we had it, we were trying to get it out of our end. They’re one of the four best teams in hockey. We know they wouldn’t quit because they never have before. We were lucky to win. We know that, I think, unless we are pretty stupid. It should teach us a lesson.”

Back in Uniondale, Game Three was tighter than Spanx on a sumo wrestler.

Bernie Parent’s back had recuperated enough that he was back in goal for the Flyers. The first two periods saw neither team able to score. One fight took place over the course of the first two periods and that was it for the fisticuffs. This one was about close checking hockey. The Flyers outshot the Islanders 32-14 in the game. One goal was scored. It came thirty seconds into the third period with each team a man short. It was scored by Reggie Leach and the game ended 1-0 with the Flyers taking a commanding 3-0 series lead.

After the game, someone joked to Flyers’ coach Fred Shero, “They’ve got you right where they want you now!” Some in the scrum laughed, but Shero didn’t. Everyone knew what the Islanders had done to the Penguins in the previous round, but no one seriously thought that a monumental upset of that magnitude was anywhere near imminent in this series.

Shero spoke seriously to the assembled press. “Sure they can win four straight....if we fall asleep. But I doubt we will do that.” Over in the Islanders’ dressing room, Bob Nystrom seemed to echo Shero’s remarks. When asked about the likelihood of his team repeating the feat they performed against Pittsburgh, Nystrom said, “They don’t let you up. Every time you get the puck, there’s somebody in front of you. It’s like playing in a closet.”

During the 1974-75 season, Nystrom scored 27 goals. Yes, it is truly a modest number, even by the standards of the time, but it was enough to lead his team. The next highest total of goals by one of his teammates was 25, by Billy Harris and Clark Gillies. But Nystrom saw himself as one of the guys who had to help his team by putting pucks into the net. So far, in the postseason, he had yet to score even one goal. Since the regular season had ended, he had taken 41 shots on goalies for the Rangers, Penguins and Flyers without being able to get one over the goal line.

“The last game of the season, I said to myself, ‘Here come the playoffs. Now I have to score.’ During the regular season, I never worried about scoring goals. But this was the Stanley Cup Playoffs! So important. In juniors, I never approached the playoffs this way. But this was for the STANLEY CUP, you know? Al (Arbour) hasn’t said anything to me yet, because I think he’s trying to hold back. I guess he doesn’t want too many things going around in my head to confuse me.”

“Mr. Torrey said ‘Telling you this and this and this would just give you more things to worry about’, and he’s right. But the funny thing is that sometimes you wish someone would pull you aside and say, ‘Hey, this is what you’re doing wrong.’ If it could only be as simple as that.”

While Nystrom was trying to figure out where his scoring touch went, a lot of focus was being placed on the Flyers and their style of play. By ‘style of play’, I’m not referring to their being known as the ‘Broad Street Bullies’. But, instead, the hockey world was taking notice of the way they played hockey and what had made them so successful the previous few seasons.

Al Arbour was asked about the way that Fred Shero had his team functioning on the ice. “They take the man out of the play,” Arbour told the Canadian Press before Game Four. "They don’t play the puck. They run into you. They get in your way. They make it very tough on you.” What Arbour was describing was the hybrid style of hockey that Shero had infused into his team. It was a mixture of North American and Euro/Russian hockey and he had his players buying into it.

“Every drill we do on the ice is a Russian drill or a European drill,” Shero explained. “It’s designed to make you more agile and a better athlete under game conditions. I don’t talk about the Russians or the Europeans to them or anybody. We try to take the best of the Russian game and apply it to our game. And there are a lot of things that they could do or learn from us, I’m sure.”

In any case, the Islanders had to learn something in a hurry if they were going to stay alive in this series.

There were a lot of things about the fourth game of this series that made people stand up and say ‘Wow!’ Firstly, the Islanders scored the first goal of this game. To this point in the series, they had not been able to do that. Just before the game was five minutes old, Islanders’ captain Eddie Westfall gave his team a first period lead.

Eight and a half minutes later, Bill Barber was awarded a penalty shot after he was tripped by Billy Harris while on a not-quite-clean breakaway. His shot attempt was thwarted by a great glove save by Chico Resch. For the fans of the Nassau County Coliseum, their early trepidation gave way to, perhaps, mild elation as they watched their beloved team score not only the first goal of the game but the second and the third as well. 

By the 12:49 mark of the second period, the Islanders held a 3-0 lead on goals by Westfall, Gerry Hart and Ralph Stewart. But the Flyers, on goals by Lonsberry and MacLeish, less than two minutes apart late in the middle frame, pulled themselves back into this game with just twenty minutes remaining in regulation time. Fans on the Island could be excused for being at least a little nervous.

They would become a lot more anxious early in the third period when MacLeish scored again to even things up at 3-3. The score would stay that way until the final seconds were ticking down in that third stanza. It was at that time that Reggie Leach thought he had won the game and the series for the Flyers. His shot got past Resch and he had assumed that he had scored and sent his team to the Cup final. But referee Dave Newell called it off saying that time had run out and the buzzer had sounded, and the green light had come on behind the Isles’ goal.

Resch was crushed when he realized the puck had gotten past him. “I don’t know whether it was a goal or not. I heard the buzzer, but my back was to it. I was upset. I thought I had blown it.” For his part, Leach was sure he had scored. “I just shot it, and it went in. Sure, I put it in.” Alas, the goal did not count. Video confirmed the puck crossed the line after there were zeroes on the clock. The game would go to overtime for the second time in the series.

After sixty minutes had been played, the Flyers had fired 38 shots on Resch, while the Isles had managed 28 on Parent. But the Islanders needed only one more to end this contest. It came off the stick of Jude Drouin as he was one-on-one with Parent. He got the puck past the future Hall of Famer less than two minutes into extra time.

“It was me and the Flyers,” Drouin told the scribes after the heroics. “If I had missed it, I would have shot myself.” The play was started as Westfall carried the puck over the blue line. He saw Drouin open on his wing and flipped a little pass over to him. It hopped over Drouin’s stick but J.P. Parise got it and fed it back to Drouin, who was now alone and skating in on Parent.

“I noticed Bernie Parent was more on the lefthand side of the net,” Drouin explained, “so I had to go to my backhand, which I did.” For Philadelphia, the defeat was their first in two months.

The Nassau County fans could breathe again, at least for a couple of days. The players though, had some realization that they may have been somewhat fortunate in this game. At the precise second that Leach’s shot had gone into the net though, Denis Potvin was disconsolate. “You just look down at the ice and you don’t really see anything. You can’t tell what’s happening. It’s strange and horrifying. Then someone began yelling that there wasn’t any goal. You smile, go to the dressing room for a drink and know that this was a resurrection. The Good Lord helped us out a little bit and I hope we make sure and thank Him for it.”

One interesting thing that came out of this game was the fans’ treatment of Flyers’ heavyweight, Dave ‘The Hammer’ Schultz. In the second period, Schultz and the Isles’ Garry Howatt engaged in a fight against the boards in the neutral zone. As Schultz was raining blows on Howatt’s face and head, Isles’ fans were reaching over and grabbing Schultz’ hair and stick or whatever they were able to get a hand on. As he was skating off the ice, objects were thrown at him mercilessly.

Schultz was quite perturbed by what he experienced at the hands (and voices) of the Uniondale patrons. His fighting major and minor penalty for high sticking carried over from the second period into the third. So he went directly to his dressing room. But, after the game, he went off on what he had seen, heard and felt from the fans.

“They weren’t harassing me from the penalty box, but I just came off. I don’t have to take the f***ing abuse. Normally, I’d stay in the box, but besides I hurt my hand and had to get some ice for it. How do you think I hurt it? I hurt it on Howatt’s face...and head.” He went on about the fans in particular, and closed with, “I don’t know how they let them in the building.”

He continued to expound on not just the Islanders’ but the on both New York teams. “You can take those f***ing Rangers and Islanders and shove ‘em! They do worse things than us all the time and nobody ever says a thing.”

Well, then....back to the City of Brotherly Love for Game Five!

If the fans in Philadelphia had not watched either of the games on Long Island, and their only memory of the series was what they saw in the first two games of the series, they must have been just shocked by what they saw in this contest. The Flyers looked like their strength and will to win had been broken in the last game in Uniondale. Meanwhile, the Islanders looked very much like a rejuvenated group of players.

No doubt about it, this game was all about the Islanders – right to the end.

By the time Bob Nystrom scored his first goal of the playoffs (on his 45th postseason shot), with just over nine minutes remaining in the third period, to make the score 4-0 for the visitors, the result of the game seemed purely academic. Each team would add a goal in the last part of the game. The scoreboard read 5-1 favouring the boys from Long Island. But it was what happened with 22 seconds left that remained on a lot of people’s minds.

Before we talk about the main event, we have to go back to a point early in the third period. The score was 3-0 and Dave Schultz had taken a little run at Clark Gillies. According to Gillies, “He slashed me on the leg with his stick.” The two went at each other, but not with any maximum ferocity, as they each earned minor penalties for roughing. But at the 19:38 mark of the third, Schultz went at Gillies a little more earnestly.

“The way I look at it, he started the fight. I turned around and he was coming at me," Gillies said, after the game. "That’s the way he plays. He’s always looking for something and I guess they think it helps the team. We started out grabbing each other, but when I got my hand free, I hit him about three good ones and I had him good when (Andre) Dupont grabbed me.”

Larry Fox was covering the series for the New York Daily News and he wrote that Schultz was out on his feet. It’s somewhat understandable, given that Gillies had a height, weight and reach advantage over his Flyers’ counterpart. “Big as I am, I can stand back and, if I stretch him out, he can’t hit me.” Schultz, who had done a fair bit of yelling at Gillies when the two were in the penalty box earlier in the period, didn’t say much after this one was over.

“He went off the ice right away,” Gillies said after the game. “Maybe he didn’t want to be embarrassed. You know, he’s always calling everybody else a cheap shot artist. I guess he doesn’t look in the mirror.” Gillies figured that he had not seen the last of Schultz in this series, but the Flyer tough guy was respectful in the room with reporters afterward. “That Gillies is too big to fool around with. He’s strong as a bull.”

The series was now heading toward a sixth game back in Uniondale. The Islanders were still alive. And there was now some real animosity.

The Islanders were not only alive, but they were the talk of the sports universe at this time. People took notice when they had come back from that 0-3 deficit against the Penguins to win the series, but now that they had come back in this series against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, they weren’t just being watched. They were being examined!

John Jeansonne wrote an interesting piece in the New York Daily News between the fifth and sixth games of this series and he talked about how Al Arbour got his players to this unlikely point, not only on the ice, but in the players’ minds as well.

One of the first messages Arbour began sending his players back in the summer of 1974, well before the season was to begin, was ‘Think Playoffs’. Glenn Resch told Jeansonne, “Coaches say a lot of the same things, you know. But there is something about Al that makes what he says believable. I don’t know what it is, except that now, in the back of my mind, I find myself saying ‘Well, he’s been right all year.’”

“An example is after the third Pittsburgh game (when the team was down 0-3 in the series),” Resch continued. “Al said at practice the next day, ‘If there’s anybody here who thinks the season is over, he should take his stick and get off the ice.’ I was saying to myself, ‘Aw, come on, Al’, but really, in the back of my head, I decided he was right.”

Bill Torrey had his thoughts on what Arbour had done to influence this team’s performance as well. “He has eliminated the past and the future, and made the players believe in what they are doing right now. It’s not easily done, particularly in our case, where we have had extreme highs and extreme lows.”

“Something that helped us there, I think, was what Al and I discussed the last part of the regular season. You look at our schedule back then and think, ‘Geez, there’s no way we’ll survive to make the playoffs’. Montreal, the Rangers, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta. But we figured, if we survive, it would be good preparation for the playoffs. It was force-feeding for the players to believe in one another and, obviously, to believe in themselves.”

A crucial point in every team’s success is having every player playing in the role that is consistent with their abilities and their temperament. Arbour seemed to have been masterful at identifying roles for each of his players, while knowing how best to communicate that to each of his players individually. “Oh, he does some screaming sometimes. You’d better believe it,” Resch told Jeansonne. “But you can tell that what he’s saying is not in a fit of anger, is not just a release for his anger. It’s controlled. It has a point in getting us to do what he wants.”

When you think about where the Islanders were at the end of the 1973-74 season, Arbour appeared to be getting everything he wanted out of his Islander players. And perhaps even more. They were down 3-2 in the series, but the men in blue, orange and white were hopeful, if not realistic. Gerry Hart told Jeansonne, “If not this year, then next year. But why not this year?”

While the Islanders had been trying to mount another unlikely miracle finish, the Buffalo Sabres had dispatched the Montreal Canadiens from the postseason party. So, the Sabres were home and cooled out, awaiting the victor of this tough checking series. The sixth game of this semi-final series would be played on national television on the afternoon of Sunday, May 11. It would be in Uniondale and the hope for Arbour’s Islanders was to send it back to a seventh game in Philadelphia.

It didn’t take long for the Flyers to give themselves a lead. Ross Lonsberry deflected a point shot from Joe Watson less than two minutes after the opening face-off. Then they tried to play a defensive style. Carry the puck until you can’t anymore, then try to place it in a spot where a teammate can get it. If that can’t be done, then dump it deep and peel back to defend once again.

It took a while, but eventually the Islanders evened the score. On the power play, Denis Potvin fired a shot from the point that got past Parent with less than four minutes left in the second period. Less than four minutes into the third frame, Gerry Hart scored the winner, again, on a shot from just inside the blue line. Then it was the Islanders’ turn to play ‘Kitty-Bar-The-Door’ hockey. They survived the final, agonizing sixteen minutes to eke out a 2-1 win and send this series back to Philly for a one-game, winner-take-all, seventh game.

For the eighth time in eight tries, the Isles had won an elimination contest. While that fact was celebrated all around the Nassau County Coliseum and environs, it didn’t seem to phase the Flyers’ captain Bobby Clarke. “Someone told me they had won eight games to stay alive in the playoffs,” Clarke told the press after the game. “I’d say they’re about due to lose one.”

Bill Barber wasn’t about to go too far out of his way to give his opponents credit either. “They’re playing to the best of their ability,” Barber said. “We’re not. We haven’t been for the past three games. We just have to resolve individually that we are going to give it our best shot. If they play their best Tuesday and we play our best, there’s no doubt we will win.”

Over in the Islanders’ room, there was a mix of relief and happiness. “We just take it one miracle at a time,” Al Arbour told reporters, with a massive smile on his face. Then he got serious. “We try to win every individual shift. If we can do that, then we can win a period – and if we do that, we can win a game. You win enough games, and you can win a series, and if you win enough series, you win the Stanley Cup.”

Chico Resch tried to grasp the enormity of the moment but also tried to remain pragmatic. “We realize we’re on the threshold of accomplishing something that has never been done before and probably never will be achieved again.” Gerry Hart also did his best to stay grounded in reality. “We won’t head into that seventh game overconfident. Not in their building. I think they’re capable of playing better, and I think they will Tuesday.”

Fred Shero was assertive in his comments but also acknowledged that he and his team were in a place they hadn’t been in in a long time, if ever. “We’ll be ready. This is the first time all season we’ll be playing a game that could be our last.”

While the Flyers were doing their best to display some bravado, inside, they were feeling, probably for the first time in a few years, that they might somewhat fallible. They felt the need to end this immediately, and ensure a victory, and they had just the ‘nuclear’ deterrent to that. ‘The First Lady of Radio’ – Kate Smith.

Yes, Kate Smith had been a star back in the Golden Era of Radio. But her version of God Bless America, whether she performed it live on the Spectrum ice surface or the arena staff played her recorded version of the Irving Berlin classic, virtually guaranteed a Flyer victory. Up to this point in May of 1975, Philadelphia’s record when Ms. Smith’s version of the song was played prior to a game was 42-3-1.

When it was announced that she would be at the Spectrum to sing before the seventh game of the series, reporters scurried to Al Arbour to get his reaction. Would she be any factor on the outcome of the game? Arbour pooh-poohed the idea immediately. “Kate Smith??!!! That’s no factor. The game is played on the ice, not with music.” Still, the Islanders did devise a plan to defuse any perceived edge the Flyers or their fans may have had with the icon singing before the contest.

But Kate Smith or not, the Flyers needed to get themselves ready mentally and physically for this do-or-die match. After the sixth game, Bobby Clarke called a ten minute players-only meeting to, as veteran sports columnist Al Strachan put it, “lay down the law to his teammates”. “Any guys who don’t play their best in the seventh game don’t deserve to be on our hockey team.”

As I wrote in my book Crazy Days & Wild Nights, “Come game time, almost as if on cue, the Flyers trotted out the 66-year-old Ms. Smith. Almost just as quickly, Islanders’ captain Eddie Westfall tried to squelch any momentum this might create when he skated over to the songstress and presented her with a massive bouquet of flowers. Then, all the Isles skated over and shook hands with her as they basked in their moment in the arena spotlight.”

As Smith belted out God Bless America, the Spectrum crowd went wild, and the pandemonium continued after the old standard was finished. The screaming and cheering went on and on through the opening face-off and the Flyers rode that wave of enthusiasm to the first goal of the game. Nineteen seconds in, Gary Dornhoefer skated down the right side and blasted a shot past Chico Resch. At that moment, the roof almost blew off the building. A couple of minutes later, Rick MacLeish deflected a Bill Barber shot by Resch and the fans were in a complete tizzy!

Two and a half minutes later, though, Jude Drouin scored to get the Islanders back to within a goal of the Flyers. But a couple of minutes after that, MacLeish scored another and it was 3-1 for Philadelphia. The scoring had come quickly, furiously, but, for the Islanders, this would be the end. There would be no more miracle finishes in the spring of 1975. The game ended with a 4-1 score in favour of the Flyers. Their magnificent run had come to an end.

After the game, Al Arbour lauded his team’s effort and their heart. “It’s not the end for us. It’s just the beginning. I’m proud of my team. They showed a lot of character in winning and a lot of character in losing tonight.” When you look at the very humble beginnings this team had grown from, they had to take some satisfaction from their postseason and they way they took Philadelphia to the absolute limit.

Denis Potvin was gracious in his post-game remarks about the Flyers and, in particular, their captain. “Bobby Clarke is one of the guys in the NHL who gets a lot of recognition as one of the team leaders and one of the greats in the league. Tonight, more than any other game in the series, he proved it. He made the club do what he wanted them to do and they followed in his footsteps. If they keep playing that way, they’ll win the Stanley Cup. I hope they do because I firmly believe that the team that is able to beat us will win the Cup.”

As the teams shook hands after that seventh game, Fred Shero yelled into Denis Potvin's ear -- because the Spectrum crowd was absolutely raucous, "The Islanders have arrived!" Maybe so, but not quite all the way....yet.

The Flyers did win the Cup in 1975, knocking off the Sabres in six games. It took a few years before the Islanders were able to once again reach the heights they climbed in that playoff run. They were still missing just a couple of pieces. A couple of years after this epic streak, they would add a crucial piece to their puzzle, a man who became one of the purest goal scorers of his generation, if not of all time.

*     *     *

Keep your eyes open for Part 4 of this series, The Last Bespectacled Man – Part 4, coming soon

Get Howie’s great book, Crazy Days & Wild Nights on Amazon. 19 different outlandish stories taken from the pages of Sports History! It makes a great addition to your summer reading list! You can hear Howie and his co-host Shawn Lavigne on the Sports Lunatics Show right here on the FiredUp Network or on 212 different platforms including Spotify, iHeart Radio, TuneIn Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.