New York Islanders legends Clark Gillies and Bobby Nystrom are legends, and the dynamic duo recently sat down with Chris Peters to discuss how exactly they pulled off their Stanley Cup dynasty. With the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs around the corner, the two former stars are ready to talk shop.
Nystrom and Gillies recently sat down with NHL lines site Betway to discuss what it was like to build towards the dynasty, and how things such as friendship played a role in their success.
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.
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 others habits and it was a kind of feeling.
By the time you guys won your fourth Stanley Cup, did it ever feel automatic like you knew you would win?
BN: I would say no. There was always doubt. There were some very, very good teams. We knew each year that we were going to have to do our best and play our best and overcome adversity. It’s just not an easy thing to win.
CG: In 1982, we were playing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and we annihilated them in two games. We thought we’d waltz into Pittsburgh and beat them, come home and rest for the next series. Next thing you know, they tie up the series and with five minutes to go in Game 5 back at the Coliseum, we were down 3-1. And we’re thinking, oh boy, is this how it’s supposed to end? And thank God John Tonelli scored with a minute to go and then we go into overtime. We could have very easily lost that game. Mike Bullard nearly scored and if he hits the net, we only win two in a row. Then Bobby goes down and scores the winning goal in overtime.
BN: I actually remember I took a penalty and the penalty box attendant was sitting next to me and he says: “I can’t believe it’s over.” And I said to him: “It’s not over yet.” That turned out to be pretty doggone good.
Nystrom and Gillies went on to speak about Al Arbour and how you must manage egos on a team full of star players. With great talent comes great management. Not sure we’ll ever see another dynasty like this again.
You can see the rest of the interview, alongside NHL tips and picks on Betway’s blog.
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