As Duncan Keith was accepting the Conn Smythe trophy for the NHL Playoffs MVP in Chicago Monday night, and the Stanley Cup was receiving its final polish before being carried onto the ice and into the waiting hands of Blackhawks captain Jonathon Toews, the word “dynasty” popped up among my group of friends gathered to watch.
The Hawks, who dispatched the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games to claim their third Cup in a span of just six years, are no doubt the envy of every other team in the league – but a dynasty? I say not just yet.
Now I readily admit my bar is quite high to be included in the “dynasty” club, and a repeat performance again next year would get the tip of my cap to Joel Quenneville and his boys – but not just quite yet. Three is sweet, but four is when dynasty talk starts here. Below are my “measuring sticks” in the four major sports when talking the “Big D.”
When I think of a dynasty, I first think of back-to-back championships, perhaps the hardest thing to do in all of sports (and the NHL may be the most difficult of all). In hockey you have Mike Bossy’s NY Islanders who won four in a row from 1979-1982 and Mark Messier’s Edmonton Oilers who followed the Islanders run with one of their own, winning five Cups in seven years from 1984-1990, including back-to-backs in ‘84 & ‘85 and ‘87 & ‘88 (I mentioned Messier and not Gretzky since the Great One was plying his craft in LA when the the Oilers won their 5th Cup in 1990). Or if you want to go back a few years more, the Montreal Canadiens were the gold standard in the NHL for decades, and won ten championships in just fifteen seasons from 1965 to 1979, including a run of four straight Cups from 1976 to 1979.
Shifting to the NBA, I give you Michael Jordan and the Bulls’ six Championships in eight years from 1991-1998 (with two three-peats from ‘91 to ’93 and ‘96 to ’98). The Lakers had Magic’s “Showtime” when they won five Championships in eleven years (with a repeat in ‘87 and ‘88) and Kobe’s run of five Larry O’Brien Trophies from 2000-2010, including a three-peat from 2000-2001-2002. And let’s not forget about the great Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics, who managed an amazing eleven Championships in thirteen years (1957-1969). In the college ranks there’s John Wooden and UCLA, and then there’s everyone else. Wooden’s Bruins won ten NCAA Championships from 1964-1975, failing to win it all only twice, in ‘66 and ‘74.
The NFL gives us a handful of dynasties, all coming before the salary cap was put in place and players actually stayed with one team for most (if not all) of their careers – and no, I’m not giving the Patriots and their four Super Bowls in fourteen years the “dynasty” tag. I’m also not going back to the early days of the league when Curly Lambeau was prowling the sidelines for the Packers (head coach 1919-1949). I’ll start instead with Vince Lombardi’s Packers of the ‘60’s, who won five NFL Championships from ‘61-’67. Then Terry Bradshaw led the Steelers to dual “back-to-back” Super Bowl wins in ‘74 & ‘75 and ‘78 & 79, and finally the 49er’s captured four Lombardi Trophies in a span of 5 years from 1981-1989, with a repeat in ‘88 & ‘89 (they won another in 1994). Sorry Cowboys fans you needed one more in the 90’s to make my list – three in four years was impressive, but four Championships is my bar for dynasty talk.
The Canadiens equivalent in baseball is of course the New York Yankees and their 27 World Championships. In fact, its hard to even break their run into segments due to their complete dominance over four decades (from 1923 to 1962) when the Yanks claimed 20 titles. From the Babe, to Gehrig to Mantle, the Yankees won and won often. The Yankees also get the nod from 1996 to 2000 as well, when Jeter and company brought it home four times in five years (only missing out in 1997).
So the Blackhawks aren’t in the club yet according to me (and it’s my column so I get the final say), but they’re by far the closest thing we have to a dynasty in professional sports today. And by this time next year they might just be the newest member.