Gillies: Overcoming Adversity Was The Key To Islanders’ Success

Winning the Stanley Cup is undoubtedly one of the most difficult feats to achieve in sport, with the gruelling nature of the NHL schedule sorting out the men from the boys.

New York Islanders’ fans certainly know how it feels to miss out on success, with the club’s run of four titles during the early 1980s now just a distant memory.

However, the Islanders’ long wait to return to ice hockey’s biggest stage could be about to end, with the team well-placed to progress to the Stanley Cup semi-finals.

Their 4-3 overtime victory over Boston Bruins earlier this week wrestled away home advantage from their opponents and puts them in pole position to progress to the next stage.

Former Islanders star Clark Gillies knows a thing or two about winning the Stanley Cup, having played in a team that lifted the prestigious trophy on four consecutive occasions.

They achieved that feat after suffering heartbreak in previous campaigns – experiences that Gillies told Betway, were the catalyst for what followed.

“It was a real learning process for us,” he said. “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 spring-boarded us to beat the Flyers in the finals and I think from that point on, we had the respect of everyone in the league.”

A feature of the Islanders’ current play-off run has been their ability to overcome adversity, with the team’s spirit shining through during the campaign.

Captain Anders Lee’s absence through injury could have been a major setback, while falling behind in both series to date may have crushed lesser teams.

Gillies believes that team camaraderie played an integral role in the Islanders’ successes during the 1980s, giving them a vital edge over their rivals.

“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,” he added.

“We were together for a long, long time and we were more like brothers than we were teammates.

“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.”

Having snatched home advantage with their victory over the Bruins earlier this week, the Islanders have a golden opportunity to boost their Stanley Cup hopes over the next couple of games.

They have been a formidable force on their home ice this season, and with their fans back in attendance they could be tough to beat.

While the fans will clearly play their part, Gillies believes the onus is on the players to dig deep, just as his Islanders team did during their winning run.

“We all had 20 guys that all had a job to do,” he said. “If we all did our job and worked as hard as we possibly could, we were basically impossible to beat for a long, long time.”

Islanders fans will be hoping that the current crop of players can channel the spirt of the 1980s team and end their long wait for another Stanley Cup success. The full interview can be read at Betway’s NHL tips page.

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