Which New York Sports Dynasty Scores Best – Yankees, Bills, or Islanders?
Picking a winner in sports is never easy.
Whether you're a baseball fan, football follower, or mad about ice hockey, New York State, and surrounding areas in the metropolitan area Downstate, you have plenty of teams to root for. If the NHL is at the top of your sports pleasure, there are four teams that would easily take your allegiance - Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and New Jersey Devils.
Thinking NBA? The New York Knickerbockers and Brooklyn Nets are your home teams.
Sundays and the NFL are your thing? The Jets and Giants, although playing in the "Garden State", with roots dating back to the Bronx and Queens, forever will be thought of as NYC teams.
With baseball, long gone have been the Brooklyn Dodgers and Giants who played in Harlem, the City has both the Yankees and Mets to keep the game's fans occupied for half the year on the field.
Granted, picking the overall best, most recent dynasty from 1980 until the early 2000s is completely subjective. But, how the franchises rose to being the elite in their sport could only reinforce just how committed they were to dominating on their playing surfaces.
The New York Islanders, from the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of 1980 through 83, for four consecutive NHL seasons ruled the ice.
And, it shouldn't go unsaid, that the Islanders appeared in a fifth consecutive Finals, when losing in five games to the Edmonton Oilers in 1984. Yes. The team skating out on Long Island was that great. How great you may ask?
From the championship years of the Islanders seven players and leaders from the bench and front office are in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada.
Skaters Clark Gilles, Denis Potvin, Bryan Ttottier, and Mike Bossy, along with goalie Billy Smith make up the players who have been inducted in the hall of fame. Coach Al Arbour and general manager Bill Torrey have also found a permanent home in the sport's museum. All seven were instrumental contributors to all four Stanley Cup championships.
How frightening was Bossy on offense? Playing 10 seasons at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Bossy collected 573 goals and 553 assists, all while skating in 752 games. From the 1977-1978 season until his last in the NHL, 1986-1987, Bossy averaged 57.3 goals in each of his regular seasons.
The Buffalo Bills dominated the American Football Conference as the 1990s were welcomed by the NFL.
Like the Islanders, the team in Western New York won four straight AFC titles, and went on to appear in four straight Super Bowls (1991-1994.
The Bills made NFL history by appearing in and losing in four straight Super Bowls.
Once losing to the Giants by a last second field goal, next to the Washington Redskins, then twice in a row to the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo couldn't find a way to get over the proverbial winning hump.
Buffalo, an original member of the American Football League in 1960, in the 1990s, won 103 regular season games. Only the San Francisco 49ers collected more victories during the decade.
Of the dozen individuals enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio associated with the Bills, eight are associated with the Super Bowl teams of the 1990s. Owner Ralph Wilson, general manager Bill Polian, coach Marv Levy, quarterback Jim Kelly, receivers Andre Reed and James Lofton, running back, Thurman Thomas, and defensive end Bruce Smith.
Charged with playing their home games outdoors in Orchard Park, often in frigid conditions as the NFL schedule moves on to November, the Bills find a unique way to adapt to the elements, and use it as a plus against their visiting opponents. With Buffalo being the NFL's second smallest market only to Green Bay, the loyalty shown by locals (including those in adjoining communities across the Canadian border) is a testament to the franchise being in the process of building a new stadium.
The average weather conditions on game day in Buffalo involve a high of 54 degrees with a 60% chance of precipitation.
Just the mention of the New York Yankees translates to images for most New York baseball fans of championships won.
1996, 1998-2000, four World Series championships were won by the Yankees. In 2001, the "Bronx Bombers" made their way to a fifth World Series, only to lose to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Another World Series appearance came in 2003, and six seasons later, New York collected yet another MLB championship.
Any hall of famers from the great Yankees clubs of the 1990s and beyond? So far, manager Joe Torre, and players Derek Jeter, Wade Boggs, and Mariano Rivera have found a home in Cooperstown.The 1998-2000 Yankees are the last MLB team to win three consecutive World Series championships.
The Yankees didn't win four consecutive championships like the Islanders of the 1980s, however, five in a 14 year run is pretty darn impressive. With seven appearances in the Fall Classic from 1996 - 2009, the Yankees averaged representing the American League every two years.
Given the incredible success sustained by these three New York sports franchises, stretching from Buffalo to New York City, between the 400 mile separation, are fans of many teams. The New Jersey Devils won three Stanley Cups (1995-2003). The NHL club's home ice in Newark is separated from Manhattan by a dozen or so miles. They certainly would qualify in the discussion for New York area franchises who dominated their sport.
Is there one topic that you could point to that may have one of the great franchises stand a bit in front of the other? For me, the many, many rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs could nudge the Islanders a hair ahead of the Bills and Yankees. Playing on a frozen surface is like no other. Maybe.
Although Buffalo reached and lost the Super Bowl four consecutive seasons, I'm going to give the Bills an edge on their fellow franchises in the Bronx and out on Long Island. Home games played at Rich Stadium (now Highmark BlueCross BlueShield Stadium), in November and December often are done while battling brutal weather conditions. Rain, hail, snow, sleet, wind whipping off Lake Erie, sometimes in the same game, makes throwing a pass, kicking a field goal, executing an effective punt, or catching a pass beyond challenging.
Of the three New York dynasties, the Buffalo Bills received the highest score from me. What say you?
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.
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