The NHL's ad campaign for this year's playoffs is brilliant in so many ways: First, it's cheap: Recycle some old footage, add a song -- only one surprisingly effective song needed -- and a tagline, and you have an instant tear-jerker for most NHL fans. (Every time I see the Mario Lemieux one, I suddenly get a few allergens in the eyes thanks to where I was and who I was with when that goal happened.)
Second, it's ready-made to go viral, and perhaps best of all, it's the inspiration for what will be countless ax-grinding imitations and truly hilarious various parodies. Make no mistake, even if the NHL doesn't endorse videos making fun of Kerry Fraser or poor Patrick Stefan (minus points for not being a playoff event), the fact signature moments from league history are being spread and replicated is good for the NHL. It's educating a new generation of fans on the history that makes this league so damn addictive.
History ... "history" ... say, that reminds me. You know what clip absolutely has to be included in this campaign? Of course you do. It's the goal that started the league's only
true uninterrupted "dynasty" of the last three decades. It's a goal that helped define a franchise. A goal scored by a player who so embodied that franchise, he has the team's annual fan-vote MVP award named after him.
At 7:11 of OT on the afternoon of May 24, 1980, history was made. What if Nystrom didn't beat his man?
If you need any more evidence, ask yourself this: With apologies to Uwe Krupp, how many times has a competitive Stanley Cup been won with an overtime goal?
And if we really want to get into what-ifs, we could extend the campaign forever: Two years later, the only team in NHL history to win 19 consecutive playoff series would never have accomplished that feat if John Tonelli hadn't tied it up 2-2 (assist: Coliseum ice) with just 2:21 left in regulation in the decisive opening-round Game 5 against the Penguins. Tonelli being Tonelli, he then won it on a Herculean effort in OT after first being hauled down on a breakaway. Without those heroics, the Cup streak stops at a very Penguins- or Oilers-like two in a row. No dynasty.
What if Tonelli didn't get up? [Video of each after the jump.]
Tonelli Ties it up against the Penguins with 2:21 left in Game 5
Tonelli Wins it in OT
This is not just one more Isles fan digging up the increasingly ancient past; no, this is one of the league's greater moments from the past 30 years. It belongs in this playoff ad campaign, and teenage Western Conference fans whose home broadcast teams pan up to all those white, orange and blue banners -- during their lone visit to the Coliseum every other year -- deserve to know why, and how, those banners got there.
It's not just Islanders nostalgia; it's part of the league's glorious mystique which, some days, is the best asset it has.