Oct 1, 2004
After Calgary had won Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Warner Brother's Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup 2003-2004 Champions DVD, I began to feel the rising excitement and nervous anticipation of an imminent Flames victory. Though I knew all along that these hopes were doomed to failure, I strangely felt the gloomy emptiness and sting of defeat as the DVD caught up to reality and Tampa Bay won their first ever championship. The mark of a successful sports video is being able to recapture some of the emotion of the actual event, and it is a goal that this DVD accomplishes well.
The DVD collects many of the highlights of Tampa Bay's memorable Cup run and manages to corral the high emotions of the series in one enjoyable, hour-long recap. Also included is the complete telecast of Game 7, without commercials or intermissions, which will be a special bonus to all Lightning fans. Other bonus features include a short piece on playoff-MVP Brad Richards, an action-packed highlight montage of the entire 2003-04 playoffs, and a short feature on crazed Tampa Bay fans as they cheered their team to victory.
Most interesting, however, is the feature which chronicles the Lightning as they transformed their organization from one in turmoil to one inscribed on Lord Stanley's Cup. It begins with Executive VP and General Manager, Jay Feaster, symbolically evoking Fred Shero's Broad Street Bullies with his famous pre-game speech, "We win today, and we walk together forever." The quote epitomizes the Lightning over the past three years as they come together through success and adversity to become a close-knit family.
The early segments on how the team was built prove to be some of the most engaging moments of the documentary. Head coach John Tortarella offers insightful comments on his players, his coaching, and the priorities of successful team-building. In one memorable quote he lauds the addition of crafty veteran Dave Andreychuk as "the most important thing that happened" to the franchise. Tortarella adds the valuable lesson that a team "cannot get anything accomplished on the ice until the locker room is straightened out. You need someone to stand up and say 'this is how we're going to do it.' That's what Dave brings to us here."
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Other fascinating insights include a rift between Coach Tortarella and star forward Vinny Lecavalier, comments on the trade for Ruslan Fedotenko, and the evolution of fireplug Martin St. Louis from an undersized spare part to the dominating, speedy winger that he is today. Brief highlights of the 2002-03 playoff run and some of the turbulence during the 2003-04 regular season are also included.
The summary of the Lightning's first three rounds in the playoffs is fairly standard-mostly consisting of the key goals and saves highlights strung together. Throughout this, and the rest of the DVD, ample commentary is provided from St. Louis, Lecavalier, Fedotenko, Andreychuk, Darryl Sydor, Dan Boyle, and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. The narration by John Hefferman is also supplemented with comments from Coach Tortarella, Feaster, and several members of the local media providing for a well-rounded and thorough analysis of the season.
As a bridge between winning the Eastern Conference championship and playing in the Stanley Cup, two very effective sequences are shown. One is an interview with embattled captain, Dave Andreychuk, then atop the NHL's all-time leader board for career games played without winning a Stanley Cup Championship. Another effective sequence portrays the Calgary Flames as a band of warriors, surviving through the playoffs with a belief in "Will vs. Skill," simply willing their way past better teams on paper.
With that, the DVD concludes by presenting a game-by-game synopsis of the seven game championship series. Nearly every goal and many impressive saves are chronicled to give an excellent feeling of the back-and-forth swings in the series. Importantly, the fans are not ignored, especially those of Calgary where it is acknowledged that the "passion for hockey runs deep and generations old," heaping the hopes of all Canada on the Flames' backs.
The one criticism would be the de-emphasis of the physical nature of both Calgary, the championship series, and in hockey in general. Included is the now-famous Lecavalier-Iginla fight and a snippet of the game-ending melee in game two, but that seems insufficient given how this was the most fight-filled, hard-hitting, and downright viciously physical Stanley Cup Finals in recent memory. The intimidation factor brought by the Flames was mostly ignored as a theme, which would have better highlighted the Lightning's ability to stand-up to that rough style as heroic. For example, Fedotenko's important goal in game 7 is shown, but no mention is made of the devastating hit he received in game 3. His willingness to meet the toughness level of the Flames, as exhibited by the ugly scar that hit left on his right cheek, proved to be an important facet in the series victory. Similarly, including some more of the series big hits and nasty play would have given the recap the same hard-nosed edge that the actual series possessed and the sport of hockey is famous for.
On the other hand, the best part of the DVD is how it manages to recapture the fan emotions throughout the series. The feelings of awe for the play of Flames captain Jarome Iginla as he dictated the series. The feelings of despair (or hope, depending on your team of choice) at the imminent Cup victory for the Flames after Game 5. The relief (or devastation) of the series returning to Tampa for Game 7. And finally, the edge-of-your-seat thrills as Calgary made its desperate charges to try and come back in the waning minutes of the deciding game.
For Lightning fans, the feeling of exuberance as the final seconds tick off the clock is one worth reliving again and again. Of course, regardless of ones preferences, the sight of Andreychuk lifting the cup in triumph at age 40 is a feel-good story good enough to warm everyone's hearts.
Overall, for general fans, the DVD serves as a worthwhile and interesting examination of a franchise's magical ride to hockey immortality. For Tampa Bay fans, however, it is an essential disk that will let them walk together with their Lightning heroes forever.
Special thanks to Warner Bros.
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