New York Islanders legends Clark Gillies and Bobby Nystrom sat down with Chris Peters to discuss the ingredients behind their Stanley Cup dynasty.
With the excitement of the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs comes an interview with two former titans of the rink, Bobby Nystrom and Clark Gillies.
Nystrom and Gillies recently sat down, virtually of course, with Betway to discuss what it was like to build towards the dynasty.
When did it become apparent to you that you had a group capable of winning the Stanley Cup?
Bobby Nystrom: It became apparent when we won the Stanley Cup [laughs]. You know what, we had a couple of teams in 1978 and 1979 that we really thought we were right there at that point, especially in ’79 when we won the Presidents’ Trophy. We thought we were on our way, but the playoffs are so totally different.
I would have to say when we got [Miracle on Ice defenseman] Kenny Morrow and [trade acquisition] Butch Goring, I think that really solidified our team. At that point, I thought we could have a run at it.
Clark Gillies: I agree totally with Bob, it was a real learning process for us. It took losing those two years against Toronto and the Rangers. It took losing to help us figure out what we needed to do to put the effort in to win.
One of the things we were missing in ’78 and ’79 was that physicality. Facing the Bruins in the second round in 1980, that’s when we really woke up. Everyone was picking the Bruins to outmuscle us and intimidate us. I think we showed them in a big way that we weren’t going to be pushed around in 1980. It springboarded us to beat the Flyers in the finals and I think from that point on, we had the respect of everyone in the league.
Aside from the key additions of Morrow and Goring in that first Stanley Cup season, how important did you feel Bill Torrey’s dedication to keeping your group together played into your Stanley Cup success?
BN: When we lost in ’79 to the Rangers, I thought for sure they were going to change a lot of people on the team. I have to compliment Bill Torrey and Al Arbour for being patient and when they picked up Butch and Kenny, that made a big difference. All the guys came together really, really well. We went out together at night, you know. We had a good group.
Was that important, being friends and liking each other, personally?
BN: Well let me say one thing, if I may, Clark would beat the shit out of you. That’s how he impressed the boys. That’s how we became friends. He’d beat up the other guy on the team that was picking on him.
CG: [chuckles] I think we were all friends. Al Arbour would say if we weren’t pulling for each other. He once came into the locker room, and you’ll remember this Bobby, he said: “I don’t care if you go to dinner, go to lunch, or if you ever see each other off the ice. You come through that dressing room door, you better be willing to go through a wall for each other.”
There were guys that hung out with certain guys and we’d get together as one big group every once in a while, but all-in-all we really liked each other. We were together for a long, long time and we were more like brothers than we were teammates.
I think I knew everything from one second to the next, I knew what Bob was going to do, he knew what I was going to do. We just got to know each other so well that we were just like a bunch of brothers, working for the same goal and it developed tremendous chemistry. We just knew each other’s habits and it was a kind of feeling.
So how much did that first championship galvanize the group? What made you all want to stick together and keep pushing for even more success?
CG: I always go back to 1978 and 1979 and what a bitter taste that left in our mouths. To win, to find out what a sweet taste that was. We were still a very young team and the personnel had not changed from the first year. So we were still all very hungry. We knew we had another shot. That was great, let’s do it again! That was the feeling amongst everybody. We were a very good hockey team and we had every right to repeat. Let’s go out there and do it again. We all had the same mindset. Our only outcome that we all wanted was to win the cup again.
BN: No question about it. When you really come right down to it, it’s such an education. Once you experience what you go through in all of those series, all of a sudden you’re not shaking. Al would always say: “Don’t be afraid to lose, the sun will come up in the morning.”
Nystrom and Gillies went on to speak about Al Arbour and managing the conflicting egos of a team full of star players.
The interview was sourced from Betway’s blog page.
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