There was a sign, probably lettered by an old Ranger fan, hanging in Nassau Coliseum today. It said "Finally!!!" and that seemed to reflect the feeling among the Islander players who brought New York the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1940.
"I'm in heaven," said John Tonelli, those perfect pass set up Bob Nystrom for the winning goal. "I just can't believe winning the Stanley Cup. I had an idea what it might be like, but it's tons more."
"Every kid who owns skates and watched (anouncer) Foster Hewitt dreams of being right here," said ex-Capital Gord Lane, standing in his locker the better to survey the mob that jammed the Islander dressing room, pouring beer and champagne on anything able to move.
For Ken Morrow, a Stanley Cup ring was now added to the Olympic goal medal he won at Lake Placid in February. Morrow felt this topped even the Olympic success.
"Right now this is a greater feeling," Morrow said. "The Olympics were seven games and over with. For the Stanley Cup we worked hard for two months. I guess that's what gives it a little bigger feeling."
The importance of this game was emphasized in the dressing room, several hours earlier, where the usual wisecracks were absent and silent meditation was the order of the day.
"Before the game everybody was in a state of concentration," Lane said. "Usually guys are yelling and shouting to pump each other up. Today it was dead in here. I guess everybody was thinking about our individual areas.
"I thought we played lousy, but it's the result that counts. I can believe it. There were some rough times, but we did it and I always thought we could."
Lane, traded here in December for Mike Kaszycki, is the first ex-Capital to drink from the Stanley Cup. He also is one of the few to win both the Turner Cup, the International postseason trophy, and Lord Stanley's mug. Few from the IHL ever get the chance.
"The man I owe the most to is Tom McVie," Lane said. "He gave me the chance to play, both in the IHL and in Washington. I expected to be in Hershey or somehwere this year, but I fooled them. This beats the Calder Cup, about $15,000 worth. But it's going to be a short vacation compared to last year."
Bryan Trottier, with two assists today for a playoff record of 29 points, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. For him, as well as everyone else, it was the Stanley Cup that meant everything.