Winning a championship is the height achievement for knowledgeable sports team. Repeating the subsequent 12 months is a rarity. But trades get made, and players retire. Injuries occur, and so do upsets. Postseason play is a grueling gantlet to run, and it keeps expanding. Winning a 3rd straight title is one among the hardest feats in team sports, and it’s seemingly getting tougher.
The Tampa Bay Lightning take to the ice on Wednesday night in a bid to win a 3rd straight Stanley Cup. It’s been 20 years since any team won three consecutive championships in a serious North American skilled sport.
When a team, just like the Lightning, does manage to win two straight championships, just how hard is it, historically, to get the third?
Repeats: 17 since 1927, including the Lightning.
Threepeats: Five, with two title runs stretching to 4 in a row and one, the Montreal Canadiens from 1956-60, to 5 straight. The league’s two-time champs have a 31 percent success rate the subsequent season.
It seems that 31 percent is pretty near the baseline for many leagues, with one exception.
Most up-to-date: The 1981-82 Islanders, a string that reached 4 the next season. “Originally of the 12 months, people figured the Islanders would win it,” said Roger Neilson, the coach of the Vancouver Canucks, the losing Cup finalist in 1982. “In the midst of the season, people said they’d, and heading into the playoffs, people figured they’d win it. It takes an actual team to get through that sort of pressure.”
As for the prospect of one other threepeat 40 years later: “Whenever you’re growing up in Canada, you usually dream about having your name on the Stanley Cup,” Lightning Coach Jon Cooper said. “And to get there the primary time, it was a dream come true. To get there a second time the subsequent 12 months was like a dream, like there’s no way we’re going back. And to go a 3rd time is unthinkable.”
Starting within the mid-Seventies, the Islanders were among the finest teams within the N.H.L., however the Stanley Cup consistently eluded them. Essentially the most disappointing years of the last decade got here in 1978 and 1979, after they finished with probably the most points of their conference throughout the regular season but failed to succeed in the finals.
So in 1980, when the Islanders won the Stanley Cup in six games over the Philadelphia Flyers, there was a gorilla-sized burden lifted from the players’ backs.
“There was a variety of pressure on the blokes, and it was an incredible grind,” said Butch Goring, a middle for the Islanders from 1980-85, “but we finally got it done, and there was tremendous relief throughout the whole organization.”
After that first title, Goring said, winning was “relatively easy” for the Islanders, and the stats back that up. The Islanders set a postseason record that also stands across North American skilled sports, with 19 straight playoff series wins from 1980 to 1984.
“In Cup two, we never broke sweat,” Goring said. “Yes, we needed to play, we didn’t just throw our sticks on the ice, but we were capable of play to our level because we understood. We knew exactly what we needed to do, and the pressure was sort of off, so we knew what we needed to do.”
And for the third championship, Goring said the sensation was the identical: “We felt during those first three years that if we played our greatest, you couldn’t beat us.”
Repeats: 13 since 1947.
Threepeats: Five, with the 1966 Celtics completing an unfathomable eight in a row. A 38 percent success rate. The term “threepeat” was copyrighted in 1988 by Pat Riley, now the Miami Heat team president. Riley, the Lakers’ coach on the time, had won two titles in a row, but ultimately his team didn’t earn him royalties with a 3rd title in 1989.
Most up-to-date: The 2002 Lakers, who also stand because the last team to threepeat in a serious North American pro league.
“The primary one, it’s a novelty and it feels good,” Kobe Bryant said after No. 3, a sweep of the Recent Jersey Nets. “The primary one will all the time be the perfect one. The second, adversity that we went through throughout the course of the 12 months made that one special. We proved that we belonged. This one, it’s kind of creating us step up as one among the good teams.”
Steve Kerr, who was on the Chicago Bulls team that won three consecutive titles in 1996, 1997 and 1998 and got here close as coach of the Golden State Warriors to doing the identical in 2019, said accomplishing the feat is awfully difficult.
“I just think the buildup of emotion and the physical wear and tear that you simply take care of over time. I believe you go from the primary 12 months, where it’s sort of fresh and latest, and by the third 12 months, you’ve been hunted by every other team and everybody’s constructing their team to attempt to beat you. You’ve had short off-seasons for a pair years in a row. It just wears you out, of course. So I believe winning three in a row in any sport is a fairly incredible accomplishment.”
Repeats: 14 since 1903.
Threepeats: 4, including a four- and a five-in-a-row by, in fact, the Yankees. A 29 percent success rate.
Most up-to-date: 2000 Yankees. “We win the large ones,” reliever Mariano Rivera said. “That’s why we’re so good.”
Not everyone bought that explanation. “If every club were allowed to spend $100 million in payroll, you wouldn’t have the identical team winning every 12 months,” Jim Bowden, the Cincinnati Reds’ general manager on the time, said. “But let’s not take away from what the Yankees have completed. They deserve the credit where credit is due.”
Bowden would have been surprised to learn that despite that spending, the Yankees wouldn’t win again until 2009, they usually haven’t won since.
Repeats: 17 since 1920.
Threepeats: Just three — an extended time ago — and none of 4 or more. Success rate: The stingiest in sport at 18 percent. And one among the three is iffy: The Canton Bulldogs won titles in 1922 and 1923, then merged and moved to Cleveland and won again, though many don’t consider that the identical franchise. Don’t count that, and also you’re right down to 12 percent.
Most up-to-date: The 1967 Green Bay Packers, making the N.F.L.’s current wait the longest for a threepeat. (The opposite undisputed triple was by the 1931 Packers.)
Only the last two of the three Packers titles within the Sixties were in the brand new Super Bowl, so no team has won that big game three straight times. The Miami Dolphins have appeared in three consecutive Super Bowls, and the Bills lost 4 in a row within the Nineteen Nineties.
The upstart Dolphins lost Super Bowl VI to the Dallas Cowboys, 24-3. The stinging defeat motivated the Dolphins the next 12 months, after they accomplished the game’s only perfect season, going 17-0 and beating Washington in Super Bowl VII. With almost the identical roster, the Dolphins repeated as champions within the 1973 season.
“You get injured players, you may get a trade or two, but in those good years, we didn’t have many changes,” said Dick Anderson, the team’s strong safety and one among its defensive leaders.
The Dolphins were a still formidable team heading into the 1974 season. There was no free agency on the time, so the team’s key players were still under contract. But coaches were free to depart, and Bill Arnsparger, the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator, became head coach of the Giants. Arnsparger was the architect of the Dolphins’ top-ranked No Name Defense and Anderson said that as talented because the players were, it was harder without their soft-spoken but heady leader.
“I don’t remember ever questioning a defense he called,” Anderson said. “He was an excellent coach, and other people don’t realize whenever you have a look at the opposite coaches, in addition they got other jobs,” including offensive coordinators Howard Schnellenberger and Monte Clark.
It has a much shorter history, but no team has threepeated in M.L.S. because it began in 1996, though there have been three repeats. The Houston Comets won the primary 4 titles within the W.N.B.A., but there was just one other team — the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002 — to even repeat because the league began in 1997. Adding up the 2 young leagues we get a 20 percent success rate.
Regardless of the game, it’s hard to get that third straight title.
Ken Belson, Scott Cacciola, Kris Rhim and Shawna Richer contributed reporting.