Successful a championship is the height achievement for an expert sports activities staff. Repeating the following yr is a rarity. However trades get made, and gamers retire. Accidents occur, and so do upsets. Postseason play is a grueling gantlet to run, and it retains increasing. Successful a 3rd straight title is likely one of the hardest feats in staff sports activities, and it’s seemingly getting harder.
The Tampa Bay Lightning take to the ice on Wednesday night time in a bid to win a 3rd straight Stanley Cup. It’s been 20 years since any staff received three consecutive championships in a serious North American skilled sport.
When a staff, just like the Lightning, does handle to win two straight championships, simply how onerous is it, traditionally, to get the third?
Repeats: 17 since 1927, together with the Lightning.
Threepeats: 5, 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 p.c success charge the following season.
It seems that 31 p.c is fairly 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. “In the beginning of the yr, individuals figured the Islanders would win it,” mentioned Roger Neilson, the coach of the Vancouver Canucks, the shedding Cup finalist in 1982. “In the course of the season, individuals mentioned they might, and heading into the playoffs, individuals figured they’d win it. It takes an actual staff to get by way of that type of strain.”
As for the prospect of one other threepeat 40 years later: “Whenever you’re rising up in Canada, you all the time dream about having your identify on the Stanley Cup,” Lightning Coach Jon Cooper mentioned. “And to get there the primary time, it was a dream come true. To get there a second time the following yr was like a dream, like there’s no approach we’re going again. And to go a 3rd time is unthinkable.”
Beginning within the mid-Seventies, the Islanders had been among the best groups within the N.H.L., however the Stanley Cup persistently eluded them. Probably the most disappointing years of the last decade got here in 1978 and 1979, after they completed with essentially the most factors of their convention throughout the common season however failed to succeed in the finals.
So in 1980, when the Islanders received the Stanley Cup in six video games over the Philadelphia Flyers, there was a gorilla-sized burden lifted from the gamers’ backs.
“There was quite a lot of strain on the fellows, and it was an amazing grind,” mentioned Butch Goring, a middle for the Islanders from 1980-85, “however we lastly bought it carried out, and there was great aid all through the complete group.”
After that first title, Goring mentioned, successful was “comparatively straightforward” for the Islanders, and the stats again that up. The Islanders set a postseason report that also stands throughout North American skilled sports activities, with 19 straight playoff sequence wins from 1980 to 1984.
“In Cup two, we by no means broke sweat,” Goring mentioned. “Sure, we needed to play, we didn’t simply throw our sticks on the ice, however we had been in a position to play to our stage as a result of we understood. We knew precisely what we needed to do, and the strain was type of off, so we knew what we needed to do.”
And for the third championship, Goring mentioned the sensation was the identical: “We felt throughout these first three years that if we performed our greatest, you couldn’t beat us.”
Repeats: 13 since 1947.
Threepeats: 5, with the 1966 Celtics finishing an unfathomable eight in a row. A 38 p.c success charge. The time period “threepeat” was copyrighted in 1988 by Pat Riley, now the Miami Warmth staff president. Riley, the Lakers’ coach on the time, had received two titles in a row, however in the long run his staff didn’t earn him royalties with a 3rd title in 1989.
Most up-to-date: The 2002 Lakers, who additionally stand because the final staff to threepeat in a serious North American professional league.
“The primary one, it’s a novelty and it feels good,” Kobe Bryant mentioned after No. 3, a sweep of the New Jersey Nets. “The primary one will all the time be the very best one. The second, adversity that we went by way of all through the course of the yr made that one particular. We proved that we belonged. This one, it’s type of making us step up as one of many nice groups.”
Steve Kerr, who was on the Chicago Bulls staff that received three consecutive titles in 1996, 1997 and 1998 and got here shut as coach of the Golden State Warriors to doing the identical in 2019, mentioned conducting the feat is awfully troublesome.
“I simply assume the buildup of emotion and the bodily put on and tear that you just cope with over time. I feel you go from the primary yr, the place it’s type of contemporary and new, and by the third yr, you’ve been hunted by each different staff and everybody’s constructing their staff to attempt to beat you. You’ve had quick off-seasons for a pair years in a row. It simply wears you out, for certain. So I feel successful three in a row in any sport is a reasonably unbelievable accomplishment.”
Repeats: 14 since 1903.
Threepeats: 4, together with a four- and a five-in-a-row by, after all, the Yankees. A 29 p.c success charge.
Most up-to-date: 2000 Yankees. “We win the large ones,” reliever Mariano Rivera mentioned. “That’s why we’re so good.”
Not everybody purchased that clarification. “If each membership had been allowed to spend $100 million in payroll, you wouldn’t have the identical staff successful yearly,” Jim Bowden, the Cincinnati Reds’ basic supervisor on the time, mentioned. “However let’s not take away from what the Yankees have achieved. They deserve the credit score the place credit score is due.”
Bowden would have been stunned to study that regardless of that spending, the Yankees wouldn’t win once more till 2009, they usually haven’t received since.
Repeats: 17 since 1920.
Threepeats: Simply three — a very long time in the past — and none of 4 or extra. Success charge: The stingiest in sport at 18 p.c. And one of many three is iffy: The Canton Bulldogs received titles in 1922 and 1923, then merged and moved to Cleveland and received once more, although many don’t contemplate that the identical franchise. Don’t depend that, and also you’re all the way down to 12 p.c.
Most up-to-date: The 1967 Inexperienced Bay Packers, making the N.F.L.’s present wait the longest for a threepeat. (The opposite undisputed triple was by the 1931 Packers.)
Solely the final two of the three Packers titles within the Sixties had been within the new Tremendous Bowl, so no staff has received that huge sport three straight occasions. The Miami Dolphins have appeared in three consecutive Tremendous Bowls, and the Payments misplaced 4 in a row within the Nineties.
The upstart Dolphins misplaced Tremendous Bowl VI to the Dallas Cowboys, 24-3. The stinging defeat motivated the Dolphins the next yr, after they accomplished the game’s solely good season, going 17-0 and beating Washington in Tremendous Bowl VII. With nearly the identical roster, the Dolphins repeated as champions within the 1973 season.
“You get injured gamers, you may get a commerce or two, however in these good years, we didn’t have many adjustments,” mentioned Dick Anderson, the staff’s robust security and one in every of its defensive leaders.
The Dolphins had been a nonetheless formidable staff heading into the 1974 season. There was no free company on the time, so the staff’s key gamers had been nonetheless below contract. However coaches had been free to go away, and Invoice Arnsparger, the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator, turned head coach of the Giants. Arnsparger was the architect of the Dolphins’ top-ranked No Identify Protection and Anderson mentioned that as proficient because the gamers had been, it was tougher with out their soft-spoken however heady chief.
“I don’t keep in mind ever questioning a protection he known as,” Anderson mentioned. “He was a superb coach, and other people don’t notice once you take a look at the opposite coaches, additionally they bought different jobs,” together with offensive coordinators Howard Schnellenberger and Monte Clark.
It has a a lot shorter historical past, however no staff has threepeated in M.L.S. because it began in 1996, although there have been three repeats. The Houston Comets received the primary 4 titles within the W.N.B.A., however there was just one different staff — the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002 — to even repeat for the reason that league began in 1997. Including up the 2 younger leagues we get a 20 p.c success charge.
Irrespective of the game, it’s onerous to get that third straight title.
Ken Belson, Scott Cacciola, Kris Rhim and Shawna Richer contributed reporting.