Winning a tournament is the highest achievement of a professional sports team. It’s rare to repeat it next year. But trades are made, and players retire. Injuries occur, as well as incidents. It’s tiring to run a post-season game, and it continues to spread. Winning the third title in a row is one of the toughest feats in team sports, and it seems to be getting harder and harder.
The Tampa Bay Lightning took to the ice on Wednesday night to win the Stanley Cup for the third straight game. It has been 20 years since any team has won three consecutive championships in a major North American professional sport.
When a team, like Lightning, manages to win two championships in a row, how difficult is it, historically, to finish third?
repeats: 17 1927, including Lightning.
three pipes: Five, two in a row with four titles and one, Montreal Canadiens 1956-60, five in a row. The two-time league champions have a 31% success rate next season.
It’s pretty close to the base of most 31 percent of the league, with one exception.
The latest: 1981-82 Islanders, the string reached four last season. “Earlier this year, people thought the Islanders would win,” said Vancouver Canucks coach Roger Neilson, who lost the 1982 Cup finalist. “In the middle of the season, people said they would, and when they got into the playoffs, they thought people would win. It takes a real team to overcome that pressure.”
40 years later there are three more opportunities to repeat: “When you grow up in Canada, you always dream of having your name in the Stanley Cup,” said coach Jon Cooper Lightning. “And getting there for the first time was a dream. Arriving a second time next year was like a dream, as if we would never go back. And going for the third time is unthinkable. ”
Since the mid-1970s, the Islanders have been one of the best teams in the NHL, but the Stanley Cup has constantly escaped them. The most disappointing years of the decade were 1978 and 1979, when they scored their most conference points in the regular season but failed to reach the finals.
So in 1980, when the Islanders won the Stanley Cup in six games against the Philadelphia Flyers, a gorilla-sized burden was lifted from the players’ backs.
“There was a lot of pressure on the boys, and it was a lot of work,” said Butch Goring, an island center between 1980-85, “but we finally got it, and there was tremendous relief throughout the organization. ”.
After that first title, Goring said winning was “pretty easy” for the Islanders, and statistics guarantee that. The Islanders set a post-season record that is still held in North American professional sports, winning 19 playoff series from 1980 to 1984.
“Two. In the cup, we’ve never broken a sweat,” Goring said. “Yes, we had to play, we didn’t just throw sticks to the ice, but we were able to play at our level because we understood. We knew exactly what we were going to do, and there was a little bit of pressure, so we knew what we were going to do. ”
And for the third tournament, Goring said the feeling was the same: “In those first three years we felt like if we played our best they couldn’t beat us.”
repeats: 13 1947 since.
three pipes: Five, the Celtics of 1966 making up eight incomprehensible in a row. 38 percent success rate. The copyright for the term “Threepeat” was coined in 1988 by Pat Riley, now president of the Miami Heat. Riley, the then Lakers coach, won two titles in a row, but eventually his team failed to qualify for a third title in 1989.
The latest: The 2002 Lakers also played three times in a major North American pro league as a final team.
“First, it’s a novelty and it feels good,” Kobe Bryant said. 3, a New Jersey Nets sweep. “The first will always be the best. Second, the difficulties we experienced during the school year made this special. We proved that we were part of it. That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there.
Steve Kerr, who won three consecutive titles for the Chicago Bulls in 1996, 1997 and 1998, and was close to coaching the Golden State Warriors in 2019, said the feat is incredibly difficult.
“I just think it’s the accumulation of emotion and the physical wear and tear you suffer over time. I think you’ve gone from the first year, which is fresh and new, and by the third year, all the other teams have hunted you down and each is building their own team to try to outdo you. You’ve had short outdoor seasons for a couple of years in a row. It wears you out, for sure. So I think winning three in a row in any sport is a pretty incredible achievement. ”
repeats: 14 1903tik.
three pipes: Including four, four and five, of course, the Yankees. Success rate of 29 percent.
The latest: 2000 Yankees. “We win big,” Mariano Rivera said in the relay. “That’s why we’re so good.”
Not everyone bought that explanation. “If every club was allowed to spend $ 100 million on payroll, you wouldn’t win the same team every year,” said Jim Bowden, then-general manager of the Cincinnati Reds. “But let’s not take away from what the Yankees have achieved. They deserve credit where credit is due. ”
Although Bowden was surprised to learn that the Yankees would not win again until 2009, and have not won since.
Repetitions: 17 from 1920.
three pipes: Only three – long ago – and none of the four or more. Success rate: the stingiest in sports at 18 percent. And one of the three is questionable: the Canton Bulldogs won titles in 1922 and 1923, then reunited and moved to Cleveland and won again, though many don’t believe the franchise itself. Don’t count that, and you’ll go down to 12 percent.
The latest: The 1967 Green Bay Packers, making the current wait in the NFL the longest trio. (The other undisputed triple was the 1931 Packers.)
Only the last two of the Packers ’three 1960s championships were in the new Super Bowl, so one team hasn’t won that big game three times in a row. The Miami Dolphins have appeared in three consecutive Super Bowls, and Bills lost four in a row in the 1990s.
The rookie Dolphins lost the Super Bowl VI to the Dallas Cowboys, 24-3. The Dolphins were motivated by a tough defeat the following year, when they completed their only perfect season in the sport, going 17-0 and beating Washington in Super Bowl VII. With almost the same list, the Dolphins repeated as champions in the 1973 season.
“You get injured players, you might get a day or two off, but we didn’t have much of a change in those good years,” said Dick Anderson, one of the team’s strongest security and defensive leaders.
The Dolphins were still a great team looking forward to the 1974 season. There was no free agency at the time, so the main players on the team were still under contract. But coaches were released, and Bill Arnsparger, Dolphins ‘defensive coordinator, became Giants’ coach. Arnsparger was the Dolphins ’top No Name Defense architect, and Anderson said that despite being as talented as the players, it was harder without their gentle but intelligent boss.
“I don’t remember ever questioning a defense he called,” Anderson said. “He was a great coach, and people don’t realize that when you look at other coaches, they got other jobs as well,” including Howard Schnellenberger and Monte Clark offensive coordinators.
It has a much shorter history, but since its inception in 1996, no team has repeated three in MLS, even though it has repeated three. The Houston Comets have won their first four WNBA titles, but have been the only other team – the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002 – to repeat the league since its inception in 1997. Combining the two young leagues we get a 20. percentage success rate.
Whatever the sport, it’s hard to get that third title in a row.
Ken Belson, Scott CacciolaKris Rhim and Shawna Richer reports help.