Stanley Cup Final : Now, Tonelli Is Glad He’s Not an Islander

Times Staff Writer

John Tonelli helped win four consecutive Stanley Cup championships while he played for the New York Islanders.

“I never thought I’d have the chance to win another Cup again after the Islanders’ dynasty ended when the (Edmonton) Oilers beat us in 1984,” Tonelli said.

But the left wing has a good chance of earning a fifth Stanley Cup ring with his new team, the red-hot Calgary Flames.


The Islanders traded Tonelli to the Flames just before the deadline in March.

Tonelli reportedly stormed out of the Islander locker room after learning of the trade, but, in retrospect, the deal that brought him to Calgary may have been one of the best things that has happened in his career.

The Islanders were eliminated from the playoffs quickly this season, but Tonelli is still playing. The Flames have advanced to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in the 14-year history of the franchise.

The Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens, 5-2, in the opening game of the series Friday night.

Game 2 will be played tonight before the series shifts to Montreal.

Lanny McDonald, a right wing for the Flames, said Tonelli has made a big difference since coming to Calgary.

“I call John the bearded Rototiller (a rotary-blade machine),” McDonald said. “He’s made a tremendous amount of difference. What more can you say about him? He plays like an out of control Rototiller. He’s put it (the team) all together with his enthusiasm. He’s got four Stanley Cup rings and he’s shown all of us what it takes to get there.”

Calgary Coach Bob Johnson said of Tonelli: “He gives us a sense of confidence because of his experience.”


Tonelli still has a house on Long Island, and his wife and two children remain there. But he has adjusted well to playing in Calgary.

“There’s always going to be a piece of my heart that belongs to the Islanders,” Tonelli said. “I’ll never forget playing in New York.

“But I’m happy here. . . . I think the Flames have all the things that are necessary to win the Stanley Cup.”

Tonelli had a falling-out with the Islanders after he staged a prolonged holdout in a contract dispute during training camp last fall. He eventually signed for three years, plus a one-year option, for a reported $350,000 a season.

However, Tonelli said that Islander General Manager Bill Torrey and Coach Al Arbour were bitter about it after he returned to the team.

“I sat out for 22 days (during the holdout), and people point the finger at that and say that I wasn’t in shape when I came back,” Tonelli said. “But I felt great. I had spent eight seasons there (New York) and I felt that the respect wasn’t there at all. A month later (after the holdout), I’d walk down the same hallway as Bill Torrey and he wouldn’t speak to me.


“I kind of expected to be traded. I was benched a couple of weeks before the trade, and Arbor said it was because he wanted to give me a different perspective.

“But the one disappointment I had when I left the Islanders was that a couple of players were quoted in the papers as saying that I was a cancer in the dressing room. If that’s the way they feel, I’m better off here.”

Stanley Cup Notes The NHL announced the finalists Saturday for its postseason awards. Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers is in the running for his seventh consecutive Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP. Center Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins and defenseman Mark Howe of the Philadelphia Flyers are the other candidates for the award, which will be announced on June 10 in Toronto. . . . Howe is also a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the league, along with Larry Robinson of Montreal and Paul Coffey of Edmonton, who won the Norris Trophy last season. . . . The three candidates for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) are Wendel Clark of Toronto, Kjell Dahlin of Montreal and Gary Suter of Calgary. . . . The candidates for the Adams Trophy (coach of the year) are Jacques Demers of St. Louis, Lorne Henning of Minnesota and Glen Sather of Edmonton. . . . The finalists for the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) are Bob Froese of Philadelphia, Grant Fuhr of Edmonton and John Vanbiesbrouck of the New York Rangers. . . . The finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy (sportsmanship) are Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders, Jari Kurri of Edmonton and Mats Naslund of Montreal.