I am a fan of sports nostalgia. I am an addict of ESPN Classic and YouTube highlights of classic games, players and moments in the most nerdy way possible. I am an owner of throwback jerseys, I still play NHL 94 and NBA Jam: Tournament Edition on the Super Nintendo, the history of the game is something that has always interested me.
That is why when I began to see promos for TSN’s 25th anniversary series of the 1987 Canada Cup, the final peak of the great international tournaments that happened in a land before the fall of the Iron Curtain and million dollar NHL players playing in the Olympics, I got begrudgingly excited.
I love ESPN’s excellent and acclaimed 30 for 30 series they did with thirty different documentaries of notable sporting moments of the thirty years ESPN has been in existence, and I do own one of those vintage VHS library classics of the 1987 Canada Cup that I used to watch when I was five years old, so I kind of knew the deal. I figured that TSN was either going to go one of two directions with this, one being highlights in between great narrative and player interviews and backstory (the documentary 30 for 30 way) or the standard ESPN Classic model of just showing the entire game in its entirety with a introduction at the start to give people who have never seen/heard of the event an idea of what is about to transpire.
Instead TSN went way off the playbook, and this is where my enjoyment of the series has been forced to take a downturn. There was, and I am not trying to be funny here, actual in-depth pre-game analysis of a game played twenty-five years ago. The TSN panel broke down a game that half the audience knew the result of and was not even necessary. Why ruin what was a can’t miss series that everyone who watched it was bound to enjoy by trying to watch too hard.
All TSN needed to do was get some interviews with Canadian players, piece together a nice package of pre-final highlights and give everyone the 100000000th Cold War history lesson and roll tape. I know I am not a TSN executive producer and my salary and job description proves it, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that it is going to look rather silly and redundant to break down a potential of a game that has zero potential.
The game itself is obviously some of the greatest hockey of all time. If basketball has the 1992 Dream Team as its greatest assembly of league talent, the 1987 Canada Cup team is that on steroids and Red Bull. Gretzky, Messier, Mario, Ray Bourque, and Paul Coffey made up a powerplay line. Has there ever been a time in modern sports history where the five best players in the world in their position made up every single player on the team at a given time? That is something that will never be seen again and alone made this event worth watching.
I hated myself for enjoying a twenty-five year old replay of a hockey game on our country’s major sports network while real sports from real Canadian teams that actually mattered were buried on something called “Sportsnet One.”
How Canadian was it that our national soccer team’s crucial World Cup qualifier was buried on the island of misfit sporting events that is Rogers Sportsnet One while 90 per cent of the Canadian sports viewing audience was watching this?
The play itself and the nostalgia of watching one of the greatest games in international history certainly justified enduring the excruciating intermission and pre-game coverage, but it still had a few things lacking beyond that. The final of the tournament obviously was the driving point of the tournament, but the 1987 Canada Cup did have some great moments in the preliminary rounds and in the lead up to the final. The United States had a shockingly good team for where they were at development wise at the time and pretty much skipping over all of the lead up passed the opportunity to build a feel of momentum for the final itself.
This is where the documentary route would have provided much more entertainment as you can weave the story and tapestry of the tournament without wasting time to show the actual games. This is probably just nitpicking because I would have preferred a well done rehashing of the tournament over re-watching games I have seen multiple times, but it did bug me.
Overall TSN had a golden idea to commemorate one of the most entertaining and nostalgic moments of an era that many of its demographic will tune into.
It was an enjoyable ride to see a time before Gary Bettman put his hands into the NHL and tried to force it to an American market. Venues like Copps Coliseum, the old Montreal Forum and the presentation in general give the feel that this is 1987 and Glenn Anderson actually did tie the game up, which is a success for TSN.
I will probably tune into the rest of the three game series, because the games are actually entertaining and it is nice to be reminded that hockey actually used to not be about how many Americans will tune into an NHL game played at eleven a.m. Saskatche-wan time in the middle of June.
TSN gets full marks for nostalgia and a great idea, just next time can you please keep it simple for all of us?