Friday, October 12, 2012

30 in 30 - Day 11: Never Say Die - The Story Of The New York Islanders

After a pretty heavy past three days with regards to docs, it was kind of nice to sit down, fire up the ol' vhs machine and watch a video.

That's heard me - V.....H...........S.

It's been a while since I've used one of these fancy machines so I was a little nervous popping the tape in.  After all, it was on loan from a friend of mine.

But success would not be denied.  Why?  Because I never say die.

Tonight's film - Never Say Die: The Story Of The New York Islanders

Never Say Die: The Story Of The New York Islanders (1996)
39 mins.
Rated: NR (but if there was ever a movie that could be given the G rating...this would be the one)

As mentioned, I watched this doc old school.....on my vhs machine.

"Demonstrating an indomitable will to win, the New York Islanders powered their way from an expansion team in 1972 to the most powerful sports dynasty of the 1980's.  Relive the Islanders' thrilling rise to the top of the NHL, including four straight Stanley Cup championships.  Never Say Die brings the Islanders story right up to the present as Mike Milbury's charges go all out to bring yet another championship to Long Island.  It's the ultimate overview of one of the greatest sports teams ever."  (source: back of the vhs case)

The 1996/97 season was the Islanders' 25th in the NHL.  As such, a commemorative video was produced to celebrate the team's history.  Clocking in at just under 40 minutes, I wondered how they would accomplish this.

From the first title to pop up to the cheesy music, badly bold graphics and typical interview settings of the time, I was sure that this doc was set in the 1980's.  There was no way this was done just 15-odd years ago.  But alas, the production quality made me shake my head.

Right into it. Time was a wasting so there was no time to ease in.  Voiceover quickly gets the club through the expansion process and into the league.  A rag tag group in 1972, they set the record for futility in the NHL and was rewarded with.....Denis Potvin, the first overall pick in that summer's draft.

Some decent footage and an interview with then GM Bill Torrey makes this section fairly interesting.  Too bad it only lasted a couple minutes.

Al Arbour comes aboard as coach and his methods were the staple for Islanders hockey for two decades.  The 1974 draft sent the one-two punch of Clark Gillies and Bryan Trottier into Long Island and the core was set for success.  In just their third year in existence, they made the playoffs.

Some great footage and stories regarding the 1974/75 playoffs.  A big upset of the Rangers in round 1, rallying from 0-3 down to beat Pittsburgh in round 2, and a near stunner over Philadelphia in round 3 (including a great story about Kate Smith).  Some great footage once again but (have I mentioned it enough) far too quick.

The 1977 draft brought in the game changer - Mike Bossy who made an immediate impact.  The dude can score goals - period.

After a couple of heartbreaking playoff upsets (including a loss to Toronto that will not be dwelled on) the Islanders focus turns away from the regular season and solely on the playoffs.  In the 79/80 season, a late trade for Butch Goring completes the puzzle.  With Nystrom and Gillies committing to toughness, New York reaches the top of the mountain on Nystrom's memorable Cup-winning goal against Philadelphia.

Some great footage and some good clips, but man this is just flying by.  You don't get a real appreciation for the dynamics and skill this team possessed.  On the plus side, there's some really cool footage of the Cup parade and some off ice moments.

In 1981, Mike Bossy did what only Maurice Richard had accomplished before him - 50 in 50.  No...not 50 documentaries in 50 days, 50 goals in 50 games.  Thankfully, they spent a bit of time on that fateful game 50 where Bossy needed two late goals to reach the achievement.

In 1981 they win the Cup, in 1982 they win their third in a row (zipping through the Finals vs. Vancouver in literally one minute).  John Tonelli was such a hard worker, he nearly fell down he wanted it so bad.

1983 and their fourth Cup came at the expense of the upstart Edmonton Oilers.  The old dogs wanted to show the young pups who was boss - if only for this one year.

The following year had the Islanders passing the torch to Wayne and company.  And then the producers at NHL Productions realized they needed to wrap things up.

Lafontaine's goal in the 87 playoffs and then it's straight to 1993 (yeah....saw that one coming).  Ray Ferraro and some other guys upset Mario and the Pens.  That might have been their last great push in the playoffs.  Because the credits were about to roll.

A quick mention that some guys are in the Hall Of Fame and their jerseys have been retired and we hit present day (1996 in this case).  Mike Milbury and the current crop of fishermen are a "force to be reckoned with".  Uh huh.  I'm still waiting.

And with that, the movie is over.

Quick, quick and more quick.  Never really allowing a moment to let some of these great events to sink in.  It's a shame because they had some great interviews.  Potvin, Gillies, Nystrom, Bossy just to name a few.  I wanted to hear from Billy Smith and was both surprised and disappointed when I saw him give a clip about half way through the doc.  One and only one interview clip from Smith in the entire doc.  For shame.

Some good footage was wasted by not letting the highlights breathe enough.  Some gaping holes were omitted with little to no recognition of players post-dynasty.  You can tell what the focus of this doc was.

Did I enjoy the doc? was fun.  But I didn't learn a ton and I yearned for more footage, more interviews and more.....more.

Don't kill yourself tracking down a copy on vhs (it doesn't exist on dvd). Somebody decided to upload it to Youtube.  Here it is if you dare click the link.

2.5 out of 5

I tried looking for a review....but no dice.

Next up...Fire In Babylon

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