Thank you so much for the many responses I received regarding last week’s article on my dog, Cruiser. It set a record for e-mail responses for any single Sports Junkie article I’ve ever written, and I’m very appreciative of all of them.
Story of the Week
Felix Potvin certainly had some great times in Toronto. Drafted by the Maple Leafs in 1990, he was voted Canada’s Junior Goaltender of the Year the following season. He starred during his year of apprenticeship in St. John’s, Newfoundland of the AHL. Potvin stepped into the Toronto net at the start of the 1992-93 season.
Potvin’s 2.50 goals-against average that season led the league. Yet he saved his best play for the playoffs. The emergence of "Felix the Cat" was the highlight of Toronto’s best season in a generation. He was great in goal during his 21-game playoff season, and only Wayne Gretzky’s heroics in the Leafs’ seventh game against Los Angeles prevented Potvin from going to the Stanley Cup finals as a freshman.
Fans voted Potvin to the starting position for the 1994 NHL All-Star Game, and he was spectacular in a first-round playoff defeat of the Chicago Blackhawks, notching three 1-0 shutouts. But Felix was held responsible whenever Toronto faltered in the next few years. Leafs fans came to rely so heavily on Potvin that the expectations were unfair.
There was a dark cloud that hung over Potvin’s 1998-99 season. The entire season had been a major setback. It started in pre-season. The Leafs signed Curtis Joseph to a multi-year contract, thus making Felix their number two goalie. All the while, Toronto was trying to deal Potvin for the right exchange, but were not offered what they wanted.
On December 3, 1998, Potvin, after eight years in a Toronto uniform, announced he was leaving the team. He was immediately suspended without pay, but believed his walkout was just and necessary. Toronto, recognizing the situation for what it was, finally dealt Felix to the New York Islanders on January 9, 1999.
Things only got worse for "The Cat." He posted only one win and one tie in his first eight games in New York before going on the injured list with a pulled groin muscle for an entire month. Only near the end of that season did he fully recover his form. His stay with the Isles was brief. He was traded to Vancouver during the following season. And Vancouver traded Potvin to the L.A. Kings during that following season, 2000-01.
As a Kings fan, I loved it. Potvin had a tremendous goals-against average of just 1.96 in the remaining 23 games on L.A.’s schedule, all of which he started as a new King in that regular season. Felix was brilliant in the playoffs; the Kings knocked off Detroit before losing to Colorado in seven games. Without Potvin, the Kings would never have made the playoffs.
In 2001-02, Felix played brilliantly again, posting a 2.31 goals-against during the regular season. The Kings were again defeated by Colorado in the playoffs, again a seven-game series, but Potvin allowed just 2.16 goals per game in that series. He played one more year for the Kings, and spent the past season in goal for the Boston Bruins.
Felix "The Cat" Potvin, to date, has played in 707 NHL games, regular season and playoffs, with a cumulative goals-against of 2.75. When he eventually does retire, he certainly belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Last Week’s Trivia
Kansas City Chiefs owner, Lamar Hunt, coined the phrase "Super Bowl" in 1967. It was hardly thought of as anything "super" at the time when the NFL Packers stuck it to Hunt’s AFL Chiefs, 35-10, in the half-filled, half-empty L.A. Coliseum in Super Bowl I.
Trivia Question of the Week
How did the football phrase "Hail Mary" come to be? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.