Denis Potvin And The Chant That Won’t Die

Posted in Hockey at 11:40 pm by

Though the Islanders’ 4-3 defeat of the Rangers at MSG tonight is of a more timely concern, let’s just pretend it’s still Wednesday morning while sucking on the history lesson provided by the New York Times’ Fred Bierman.

Although Potvin, who was the Islanders™ captain for eight seasons, retired from the N.H.L. in 1988, Rangers fans have turned an off-color, derisive chant that invokes his name into an institution at Madison Square Garden. Regardless of the opponent, the infamous Potvin chant is heard multiple times throughout any Rangers home game. Expect to hear it a few extra times when the Rangers play host to the Islanders tonight.

œIt is quite amazing that they™re still doing it, Potvin, now a television broadcaster for the Florida Panthers, said Thursday in a telephone interview. œThe whole thing has taken on a life of its own.

As time has passed, the chant has increasingly less to do with Potvin the player or the person. Instead, it has turned into a way for Rangers fans ” many of whom never saw Potvin play ” to express their general frustrations or to simply have a laugh during a lull in the action.

It was a check ” by most accounts a clean play ” on Rangers forward Ulf Nilsson on Feb. 25, 1979, at the Garden that instigated the chant. Nilsson was in his first season with the team, and Rangers fans had high hopes that he would spark their offense. But the hit by Potvin broke Nilsson™s ankle, knocking him out for the rest of season. The Rangers eliminated the Islanders in the playoffs that season and ended up losing to Montreal in the Stanley Cup finals. But Nilsson never fulfilled the high expectations set for him..

The Potvin chant was originally heard after the tune of œLet™s Go Band, a song played by organists at sporting events throughout North America. In an attempt to quell what was considered a vulgar chant, Garden officials stopped playing the song on the organ sometime around the mid-1980s. The chant was kept alive by persistent Rangers fans who began whistling œLet™s Go Band to encourage the Potvin chant.

At first, there was a real sense of anger behind the chant; the upstart Islanders were the best team in hockey, and Rangers fans were taking out their frustration on Potvin, who became the scapegoat for much of what became a 54-year title drought. As the Rangers continued to struggle and Potvin eventually retired, the chant softened and turned into a humorous way to express the frequent frustrations inherent in being a Rangers fan.

œThe big difference now is that people yell it with a smile on their face as opposed to the hatred that once was, Potvin said. œIt™s just one of those things that™s passed from one generation to the next, I guess. Kind of like season tickets.

28 responses to “Denis Potvin And The Chant That Won’t Die”

  1. john says:

    This is the sort of thing that almost makes me like the Rangers and their fans. But not quite.

  2. DAVID.C says:

    I thimk potvin is an obnixious blowhard. I always found him to be full of himself,and not at all down to earth. I think he is an obnoxious egotistical windbag. I also found him to be one of the dirtiest players ever.

  3. John D says:

    Potvin was a very tough player, not a dirty one. The check on Nilsson was clean. He was probably the best all round defenseman that ever played. Orr was a better, more exciting player, but Potvin could do it all. He had a wicked wrist shot, could hit like Scott Stevens (Scotty Bowman called him the meanest hitter in the game), and was a great passer, which even Fred Shero acknowledged.

    As a season ticket holder of the Islanders in the 70s and 80s, I have 4 memories of Potvin. The first was him cruising into the high slot to take a pass and beating the goalie with his wrist shot. The second was when he played the right side performing one of his patented hip checks. He did one on Guy Lafleur that made Lafleur flip over, and another on Cam Neely that took Neely out of the game.

    But the thing I remember most about Potvin was something he did a few times a year that I’ve never seen anyone else do in my 40-plus years as a fan. Potvin would stand behind his own net as a forward would break out of the defensive zone heading towards center ice. At just the right time, Potvin would take a step to the side and from behind his own net send a laser of a pass right on the stick of the Islander forward just before the center ice line, sending him on a breakaway.

    Offense, scoring, passing, defense, toughness. He excelled in every aspect of the game. There will never be another defenseman like him.

  4. Gary says:

    Potvin sucks!!!!

  5. carl g says:

    I think any one that thinks Potvin was full of himself should take a listen to Messier or Gretz. They seemed that way as well but you know what else?

    They we’re all winners.

    14 cups between the 3 of them.

  6. Theresa says:

    HaHaHa. Whistle the lets go band tune in your head and at the end put “THAT CHANT SUCKS” hahaha i would say 80% of the people who yell it, don’t know what they are even talking about they don’t know who Potvin is let alone the reason why they ranger fans USED to yell it…and DP sucks? get a grip! Yell something about the Islander TEAM for once and stop going after great players!!!

  7. potvin still sucks says:

    potvin still sucks as i was at that famous game ion 1979 on feb 25 and to this day i still say it was a dirty hit. its funny with youtube and all the old videos noone has a copy of that game or the 1975 game for that matter that started the islanders rangers rivalry when jp parise got an overtime goal to know off the rangers from the playoffs at 11 seconds of overtime. i hope one day to see some of these old videos.

  8. Islanders Fan =D says:


  9. Jay says:

    I always thought they were chanting “Povtin’s Cups”. That would make sense considering how great of a player he was and the fact that he has the same amount of Cups as the entire Ranger organization!!!

  10. HockeyKong says:

    For those of you who do not know; the “off-color” chant the article refers to is not “Potvin Sucks”. It refers to the chant “beat your wife Potvin, beat your wife”, which comes from a NY tabloid headline refering to a domestic violence situation he was involved in.

  11. Rob lake success says:

    At the parise game on that April 11 1975 Friday night in section 333 my chant I will ways remember is nice save eddie!!!! By a disgruntled rangers fan as he stormed out of the garden in disgust.that started it all the rise of the isles and the demise of the rangers till 1979. By the way potvins still has his cups

  12. Ted Irvine says:

    I was at the game – its a long time ago. I recall Nillson being behind the Islanders net and Potvin hit him from behind. At that time there was no call for hitting from behind. From where I was it looked like Potvin caught the back of Nillson’s leg with the front of his and Nillson went down hard.

    I recall it being an unnecessarily hard hit on a player facing away from the play with the puck in his skates and the fans reacted the same way. They immediately wanted a call for the hit even before you could tell he was badly hurt.

    And like true Rangers of the time – no one retaliated clean hit or not. Their best player flat on the ice.

  13. Mark Marky says:

    I was a longtime Rangers season ticket holder and I was in attendance that night.

    It happened in the along the boards just outside the goal line, not behind the net. And YES, it was most certainly a dirty hit – from behind – as Nilsson was facing the boards in a defenseless position with the puck in his skates. He didn’t see Potvin coming, and Potvin really unloaded on him. Sure, Nilsson’s skate got stuck in a rut in the notoriously bad MSG ice… but Potvin saw his chance to get rid of the Rangers’ top scorer and jumped on it.

    If it happened today, Potvin gets 2 minutes for charging, 5 minutes for intent to injure, and a game misconduct, AND gets a suspension from the league. Back then, he didn’t even get a penalty.

    The Islanders were always a dirty team, except for Bossy and maybe Goring. If you listen to Chico Resch today, you’d think that they were a team full of angels. Chico is full of it. They won most of those Ranger/Islander games because they were willing to do anything to win, including playing dirty. Sure they were a talented bunch, but they were no more talented than a bunch of other teams at the time, including some Ranger teams.

    The Rangers of ’79 were able to beat the Isles in the semifinals. With Nilsson at his best, they would have beaten the Canadiens and won the Cup. No doubt in my mind.

    THAT is why to this day we chant, “POTVIN SUCKS!”.

  14. Jt says:

    I was at a ranger /panther game recently and potvin was being razzed in the tv booth by a ranger fan.potvin smiled at the guy and said you have a problem with me?at the end of the game let’s talk about it outside the garden.the guy curled up and ran so fast beet red like a dope.potvins cups potvin cups.never umderstood why. Ranger fans chant a whistle and commemorate his cups

  15. Karen says:

    It really pisses me off to see just how immature people really are. Who the @*!! do they all think they are? Denis Potvin was amoung many, many great players who have set a precedence for future players today in their goals, styles and yes, in the maybe what not to does. But hey! There are many athletes of all sports who may be good but are just trying to survive out there when there is a mark out on them just because they’re good.

    As for the comment regarding wife battery…bullshit!! His wife was having an affair and took him to the cleaners for your information and he never laid a single hand on her. He has way too many morals for that! Besides, his private life is his private life and nobody has a right to criticize about that. Would you like your life slandered just because of your athletic abilities? I think not! Grow up people….!!!

  16. kayla says:

    SICK! i am a huge Islander fan

  17. potvins cups says:

    potvin as as many cups by himself as the pathetic rangers org. does in 85 years. who sucks? rangers suck

  18. pete says:

    As a Ranger fan I can definitely say that after seeing that hit for the first time, that…HOW GAY! Shut it up Rangers fans. The hit could not have been more routine. Not only that, he may as well have been hit by a fart in the wind. If you have seen the hit, you should never participate in the chant again. Have some dignity. People get hit harder than that playing chess. Bunch of little school girls that won’t let it go.

  19. todd says:

    I haven’t followed hockey much at all since 1994 when the Rangers won the cup, but I was a huge Ranger fan prior to that. The chant of ‘beat your wife, Potvin, beat your wife” still brings a smile to my face. There was nothing so vicious as the rivalry between the Rangers and the Islanders, and their fans. Yankees/Red Sox compared but I think tame by comparison.

    While the Islanders were dominant in the 70’s and 80’s, they have been doormats forever. It’s poetic justice as far as I’m concerned. They were bastards then, and the franchise has gotten it’s due.

  20. David C. says:

    I still say Potvin is a jerk I say he is still an obnoxious wife beating arrogant conceited Frenchman! So there. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

  21. John M says:


  22. CB says:

    Hey Islander fans, go get your latte’! POTVIN SUCKS!

  23. Potvin's Wife says:

    He beats me :'(

  24. Wanda Shayne Mason says:


  25. Potvin's Mom says:

    My son does suck!!!!!!!!

  26. K Potvin says:

    As a Potvin, the chant bothered me at first, but it keeps our name infamous:) FollowedDenis in the 70s and 80s, he was a powerhouse. The infamous hit was legal, and disgruntled Rangers fans need a scape goat for their awful team…

  27. Blue Notes says:

    Chant is awesome tradition which of course emanated from the Blue Seats which no longer exist. I clearly remember games of that era when the chant and venom of Garden crowd intimidated and affected Potvin’s play. However surprised no one remembering the most vulgar chant that went to the tune of “Camptown Races” …a tune the Garden organist also stopped playing…

  28. BayonneFrank says:

    The chant that I remember most is “Red Seats Suck”

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