The Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to win the Stanley Cup. How difficult is it?

Winning the championship is the highest achievement for a professional sports team. A repeat next year is rare. But deals are being made and players are retiring. Injuries happen, and so do upsets. Post-season play is a back-breaking job and it continues to expand. Winning a third title in a row is one of the hardest things to achieve in team sports, and it seems to be getting harder.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will take to the ice Wednesday night to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in a row. It’s been 20 years since any team has won three consecutive championships in one of North America’s premier professional sports.

When a team like the Lightning manages to win two championships in a row, how hard has it historically been to win a third?

Replays: 17 since 1927 including Lightning.

Three Peats: Five, with two title streaks stretching to four in a row, and one, the Montreal Canadiens from 1956 to 1960, to five in a row. The two-time league champions have a 31 percent success rate next season.

It turns out that 31 percent is pretty close to the baseline for most leagues, with one exception.

Latest: 1981-82 Islanders, a string that reached four the following season. “At the start of the year, people thought the Islanders were going to win it,” said Roger Neilson, coach of the losing 1982 Cup finalist Vancouver Canucks. in the playoffs, people believed they would win it. It takes a real team to deal with that kind of pressure.”

As for the chance of three more wins 40 years later: “Growing up in Canada, you always dream of having your name on the Stanley Cup,” Lightning coach John Cooper said. “And getting there for the first time, it was a dream. Going there for the second time next year was like a dream come true, as if we would never go back. And going a third time is unthinkable.”

Since the mid-1970s, the Islanders have been one of the best teams in the NHL, but the Stanley Cup has consistently eluded them. The most disappointing years of the decade came in 1978 and 1979 when they finished with the most points in their conference during the regular season but failed to reach the finals.

So in 1980, when the Islanders won the Stanley Cup in six games over the Philadelphia Flyers, a gorilla-sized burden fell off their backs.

“There was a lot of pressure on the guys, and it was a huge job,” said Butch Goring, the Islanders’ center from 1980 to 1985, “but we finally got through it, and the whole organization felt a huge relief. …”

After that first title, Goering said it was “relatively easy” for the islanders to win, and the statistics back that up. The Islanders set a post-season record that still stands today in North American professional sports with 19 consecutive playoff series wins from 1980 to 1984.

“We never broke a sweat in the second Cup,” Goering said. “Yes, we had to play, we didn’t just throw clubs on the ice, we could play at our level because we understood. We knew exactly what we had to do, and the pressure sort of subsided, so we knew what we had to do.”

For the third championship, Göring said the feeling was the same: “During those first three years, we felt that if we played our best, you couldn’t beat us.”

Replays: 13 since 1947

Three Peats: Five, and in 1966 the Celtics completed an unfathomable eight in a row. 38 percent success. The term “three peat” was copyrighted in 1988 by Pat Riley, now president of the Miami Heat. Riley, the Lakers coach at the time, won two titles in a row, but in the end, his team failed to earn his fees, winning a third title in 1989.

Latest: 2002 Lakerswho are also the last team to finish three in a major North American professional league.

“The first one is new and nice,” Kobe Bryant said after the first issue. 3, sweeping the New Jersey Nets. “The first will always be the best. The second case, the adversity we went through during the year, made it special. We have proven that we belong. It kind of makes us become one of the great teams.”

Steve Kerr, who was on the Chicago Bulls team that won three straight titles in 1996, 1997 and 1998 and as coach of the Golden State Warriors came close to doing the same in 2019, said that accomplishing the feat is extremely difficult.

“I just think about the accumulation of emotions and the physical wear and tear that you face over time. I think you start in year one when it looks fresh and new, and by year three you’re being hunted by all the other teams and everyone makes their own team to try and beat you. You’ve had short offseasons for a couple of years in a row. It just wears you down, that’s for sure. So I think that three wins in a row in any sport is an incredible achievement.”

Replays: 14 since 1903

Three Peats: Four, including four and five in a row, of course, the Yankees. 29 percent success.

Latest: 2000 yanks. “We’re winning big,” pitcher Mariano Rivera said. “That’s why we’re so good.”

Not everyone believed this explanation. “If every club were allowed to spend $100 million on payroll, you wouldn’t have the same team win every year,” said Jim Bowden, then general manager of the Cincinnati Reds. said. “But let’s not belittle what the Yankees have achieved. They deserve credit where it’s needed.”

Bowden would be surprised to know that despite these expenses, the Yankees would not win again until 2009, and they have not won since.

Repeats: 17 since 1920

Three Peats: Just three – a long time – and none of the four or more. Success rate: the most stingy in the sport – 18 percent. And one of the three is questionable: the Canton Bulldogs won the titles in 1922 and 1923, then merged and moved to Cleveland and won again, though many don’t believe they are the same franchise. Don’t count and you’re down to 12 percent.

Latest: 1967 Green Bay Packers, making the current NFL the longest wait for a triple peat. (The other undisputed trio belongs to the 1931 Packers.)

Only the last two of the Packers’ three titles in the 1960s were in the new Super Bowl, so no team has won that big game three times in a row. The Miami Dolphins went to three straight Super Bowls and the Bills lost four in a row in the 1990s.

The upstart Dolphins lost Super Bowl VI to the Dallas Cowboys, 24-3. A miserable defeat motivated the Dolphins the following year, when they finished the sport’s only perfect season, going 17-0 to defeat Washington in Super Bowl VII. With almost the same line-up, the Dolphins became champions again in the 1973 season.

“You get injured players, you can get a trade or two, but we didn’t have many changes in those good years,” said Dick Anderson, the team’s strong defenseman and one of its defensive leaders.

Before the start of the 1974 season, the Dolphins were still a formidable team. There were no free agents at the time, so the team’s key players were still on contract. But the coaches could leave, and Bill Arnsparger, the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator, became the Giants’ head coach. Arnsparger was the architect of the Dolphins’ top-notch No Names defense, and Anderson said that as talented as the players were, it was more difficult without their quiet but energetic leader.

“I don’t remember ever questioning the defense he called,” Anderson said. “He was a brilliant manager and people don’t realize when they look at other managers, they also had other jobs,” including offensive coordinators Howard Schnellenberger and Monte Clark.

He has a much shorter history, but since he started in 1996, no team has won three times in MLS, although there have been three repeats. The Houston Comets have won their first four WNBA titles, but there has only been one other team—the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002—that has done the same since the league started in 1997. Summing up the two young leagues, we get a 20. percent success rate.

Regardless of the sport, it’s hard to get a third title in a row.

Ken Belson, Scott CacciolaChris Rome and Shauna Reacher made a report.