The pitching is solid, the hitting is transparent. And if things don’t shape up for the latter, Mets manager Terry Collins will be made a casualty, not because of the team he has in front of him, but for believing that he can win with this team through “strategies.” Continue reading Lousy Hitting and “Outside-the-Box” Thinking Will Be the End of Terry Collins
With Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals already in the books, we here at New York Sports Hub would like to get into the festivities by acknowledging some of the New York hockey greats that took their teams to extraordinary heights.
When it comes to NHL dynasties, many New Yorkers will be the first to bring up the power house that was the New York Islanders from the late 70’s to the mid 80’s. During that span, the Islanders were not only expected to be in the thick of it come playoff time, it was expected of them to win the Stanley Cup. From 1980 to 1983, the Islanders hoisted the cup each year. They remain the last American professional sports team to win four consecutive championships.
Several players that represented that dynasty were Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier, Bob Nystrom and Billy Smith, all of whom have had their numbers retired the organization. But when you think about it, these players, as talented as they were, were not able to coach themselves. For nearly their entire respective Islanders careers, they were led by one man who was there from the meager beginnings and turned the franchise into a winner: Al Arbour.
Coming over from the St. Louis Blues in the Islanders’ second season in 1973, Arbour was faced with the daunting task of converting an expansion team into contenders. At the time, many Long Islanders had been longtime Rangers fans, and they were not yet sold on their new neighbors. But Arbour and his crew knew that that would all change once the Islanders could prove that they can win.
At the age of 41, many began to wonder about the prospects of Arbour’s coaching career if he were to fail to turn around the Islanders. Renowned NHL head coach Scotty Bowman even said to Arbour, “You’re going to be in last place for ten years.”
Upon taking the job, Arbour, a former NHL defenceman, knew that he needed his team to be good defensively. Finishing with just 12 wins in their first season, Arbour’s Islanders won 19 games in his first season, and they allowed 100 goals less than they did the year before. They also got a boost that season with the addition of number-one pick Denis Potvin, who along with Nystrom and Smith would be mainstays with the Islanders well into the 80’s.
The next season, with the additions of trade acquisitions JP Parise and Jude Drouin and first-round pick Clark Gillies, the Islanders made the playoffs and improved to 33 wins. In the preliminary round, they stunned the Rangers 11 seconds into overtime in the decisive Game 3 with a goal by Parise. The next round, they pushed their luck even further. Down three games to none against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Islanders rallied and took four in a row to steal the series away from Pittsburgh.
After that ’75 playoff run, the Islanders began an ascension that didn’t appear to have a peak in sight. Future 500-goal-scorer Trottier was picked up for the very next year and in 1977 they acquired right winger Mike Bossy, whose compulsive goal scoring became a benefactor to the Islanders’ style of winning.
In 1980, the Islanders finally pulled through and defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals to hoist their first Stanley Cup. It was the first of four straight Stanley Cups for the Islanders, and each year they continued to get better. From 1980 to ’84, the Islanders won 19 consecutive playoff series and from 1981 to ’83 they won nine consecutive Stanley Cup Finals games. After one more Finals appearance in 1984, the Islanders’ era of excellence was coming to a slow end. But that entire time, the core of players stayed intact, the confidence never wavered and overlooking it all was the man who put the pieces in place for one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories in the history of sports: Mr. Al Arbour.
Arbour finished his Islanders career winning 739 games and coaching in 1499 games. However, that didn’t seem right to some people, especially to then Islanders head coach Ted Nolan in 2007. On November 3 of that year, Nolan invited a 75-year-old Arbour to coach his 1500th game as an Islander. Trailing 2-0 against the Penguins, the Islanders staged a comeback and scored three unanswered goals to give Arbour his 740th victory as an Islanders coach. After the game, the Islanders removed the “739” banner from the rafters in honor of Arbour and changed it with a “1500” banner.
For all of his coaching accomplishments, Al Arbour will always be seen by Islanders fans as a hero-life figure that brought competitive hockey to Long Island and a dynasty that may never be matched again in American professional sports.
In an act of kindness and generosity between newly-formed teammates, New York Giants defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has offered his number 21 to fellow defensive back and rookie Landon Collins to allow Collins to pay tribute to former NFL safety Sean Taylor.
When he was drafted by the Giants, Collins was assigned the number of 27, as it was not currently in use by any Giant (it was last worn by safety Stevie Brown, who is now with the Houston Texans). But from day one, Collins made it clear that he wanted to wear a number in honor of Taylor. Continue reading Collins Receives Number 21 from Rodgers-Cromartie as Tribute to “Idol” Sean Taylor
Many draft dreams are going to come true for teams and players alike at Barclays Center later this month at the 2015 NBA Draft. For others, they will attempt to trade for those dreams. As for the Knicks and Team President Phil Jackson (and also James Dolan), they will play with what has been dealt to them with the fourth (and NOT the first) overall selection. Continue reading The First Overall Pick: With Success Comes Cautionary Tales
Today, June 1, marks a significant day in history for the New York Yankees, as it marks the 90th anniversary of Yankee Lou Gehrig beginning his “Iron Man” streak of playing in 2,130 consecutive games, a record that stood until Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. broke it in 1995.
As something that stood for 70 years, it was only right for a record of that magnitude to be passed on from one humble, hard-working ballplayer to another. But when you consider where professional sports is nowadays with the power of the players unions and the urge for less regular season games and more days off for players (and let’s not forget to mention player salaries), has the “Iron Man” record become a dated record? Did the record breath its last breath with Ripken?
On this day 90 years ago Gehrig began his streak as a pinch hitter for shortstop Paul “Pee Wee” Wanninger. The next day, in an attempt to shake up the lineup, manager Miller Huggins replaced a slumping Wally Pipp with Gehrig at first base. Of course many wonderful things happened between day one and his famous “Luckiest Man” speech, but we’ll save that for another time.
In 1939, with his health deteriorating due to ALS and, consequently, not having the strength he once had, 35-year-old Gehrig requested to manager Joe McCarthy to take him out of the lineup for their May 2 game against the Detroit Tigers. His last game was on April 30, where he went hitless against the Washington Senators.
We bring up this moment for a reason. Gehrig understood the amount of weight that was on his shoulders as a Yankee. He was relied on heavily, so much so that McCarthy didn’t dare to intervene and consider taking him out of the lineup (and if you can believe this, General Manager Ed Barrow even postponed a game because Gehrig was sick with the flu). The streak was his and had been his, but it didn’t play factor in Gehrig’s decision to stop playing. He simply went into McCarthy’s office and explained he was benching himself “for the good of the team.” He didn’t consider that his slow play was an early-season slump, he knew right then and there that it was over, and he put the team ahead of his God-like status as a Yankee and the sake of the record.
And you know what? The 1939 Yankees won 106 games and the World Series.
When you throw into one cauldron class, sports, leadership and commerce, you pretty much have what sports is today, which is where the record and a player’s character comes into question. The proper thing now is for a legendary ball player to announce his retirement before the season and make the season their farewell tour, instead of allowing their team to have a competitive year. I won’t dispute Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter’s farewell seasons, those were well-deserved and I supported them considering the circumstances, but I will say that there were fans, even Yankees fans, who were hoping that the team would be out of playoff contention by September so they could give each of them a proper final sendoff, and that shouldn’t be what sports is about. Also, all season long, stadiums that hosted Yankee games were having box office success, so the people upstairs were benefiting off these farewell seasons as well. They hope to breed players like that so they can continue to do it.
Lastly, where Major League Baseball is now with the players union urging to downsize the regular season, expand the rosters to give more players opportunities to play and more days for players to rest and looking out for the players’ safety, it appears that Gehrig and Ripken will forever be the only two names people mention in the same breath as “Iron Man.” With that, we can celebrate the “Iron Man” record’s 90th birthday today, but much like the Roman Empire, it came, it saw, it conquered, and then it suddenly ended.