I have talked at some length about the importance of the Stanley Cup. About how being the selected first hand-off has come to be one of the most meaningful transactions in sports. And now, I talk about what the Stanley Cup truly is – a goal. The Stanley Cup is first and foremost a trophy (albeit the greatest in sports), it is an ends to a mean. Every player in hockey wants to have their name on the Cup. And then once they have it there, they want it again.
This is a look at those teams and players that did get their names on the Cup multiple times. The dynasties that have taken possession of the Cup for years on end. Specifically, I will look at two – the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s and my Chicago Blackhawks of the 2010s.
I think that there is no doubting that either of these teams represents a true dynasty. The Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s won the Cup five times, including two repeats (1984/1985, 1987/1988) and once in 1990. Uzma Rajan takes a look at this team in his work “Edmonton’s Dynasty: The Oilers in the 1980s”.
The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are the most successful team of the salary cap era. In a League where there are not supposed to be repeat champions, where every team is supposed to be able to find success, the Blackhawks have won three cups in six years. They have defied the odds, and brought winning back to Chicago. They could be on their way to a fourth cup in 8 years.
Rajan says in “Edmonton’s Dynasty” that the team was built around the greatest player of all time, Wayne Gretzky. That much may be true, but many players play a role on a hockey team. At most, a forward like Gretzky only plays 20 minutes a night. There are 40 remaining which must be divided up over multiple lines.
The Oilers built themselves with players like Gretzky and Mark Messier and Paul Coffey. It took multiple stars to build a dynasty. Trading those three players also destroyed the dynasty. Edmonton has not won a Stanley Cup since the days of Wayne Gretzky.
The Blackhawks are built much the same way. Duncan Keith is Chicago’s Paul Coffey. Jonathon Toews its Messier. Kane is nowhere near the player that Gretzky was, but he is still one of the two best wings in hockey, after only Alexander Ovechkin.
It takes a lot to win one Stanley Cup. Yet there have been multiple teams to win multiple Stanley Cups. It shows how much meaning the Cup has, that players play their hearts out not only one year but for years on end to achieve that goal.
The Cup has power over the elite athletes of Canada. It’s why players like Gretzky, like Messier, like Toews are attracted to the sport of hockey. Everyone wants their name on that Cup, but it can only be one team’s at a time.
Which is why GMs like Stan Bowman (and Dale Tallon) and Glen Sather build their teams the way they do. It’s why those GMs choose to make the trades they do. Glen Sather wouldn’t trade Wayne Gretzky if he thought his team could no longer win the Stanley Cup. Stan Bowman wouldn’t have made the moves he has made – moving Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Dustin Byfuglien, and many, many more – if he thought there wasn’t a chance to win that trophy.
Dynasties are teams with one goal in mind: win. And once they’ve won, they strive to win more. They continue to do so until that dynasty either breaks apart, like Edmonton, ages, like the Detroit Red Wings, or, now, runs into cap problems, as the Blackhawks eventually will (experts keep saying that and they haven’t yet).
There will be more dynasties to come in the NHL. It’s hard to say that they’re not here already in the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. And it’s because of the power of the Stanley Cup, that teams want to lift that trophy over their heads and realize that being a part of a team with other superstars gives them the best chance.
Rajan, Uzma. “Edmonton’s Dynasty: The Oilers in the 1980s” (n.d.): n. pag. Department of History & Classics. University of Alberta. Web. 21 Nov. 2016. <http://ashfm.ca/absportslibrary/media/k2/attachments/uzma_rajan-edmontons_dynasty_the_oilers_in_the_1980s.pdf>.