A brief history of guaranteeing victory in sports

Matt Larkin
Mark Messier. (Glenn Cratty /Allsport)

Did Alex Ovechkin really guarantee a victory for his Washington Capitals in Game 7 against the New York Rangers, which goes down Wednesday?

As a media member, I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a stretch. “We’re going to come back and win the series,” Ovechkin told reporters Sunday night. “We’re gonna play our game, and we’re gonna come back, and we’re gonna play Montreal or Tampa.”

Not the most emphatic statement in the world, even if it officially meets the requirements of a guarantee. And what is a guarantee in sports, really? What athlete in his right mind won’t publicly give his team a vote of confidence when prompted to discuss an upcoming game? The guarantees don’t have to mean much, but we decide that they do, probably because they make for exciting narratives. Nothing wrong with that. Sports and sports storylines are fun. It is interesting, though, that certain quotes are universally declared “guarantees,” living on forever, and others are lost in the ocean of pre-and post-game interviews. For whatever reason, Ovie’s statement gained admission to the Sports Guarantee Pantheon. It’ll be remembered, especially if the Caps win Game 7 at Madison Square Garden and still if they lose.

What are some other famous guarantees in sports history? Here’s a brief rundown (with honorable mention to Babe Ruth and Owen Nolan. They called their shots. This list is about calling victories):

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Five players who could play hero in Capitals, Rangers Game 7 battle

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist stops a shot by Washington's Troy Brouwer Sunday in Game 6 of New York's second-round series with the Capitals. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Since the 2004-05 lockout, no two teams have faced off against each other in more Game 7s than the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals.

Three times in the past ten post-seasons the two clubs have gone head-to-head in a one-game, winner-takes-all contest, and Wednesday night the clubs will get their fourth go-round at playing in a Game 7 against each other.

If the Rangers emerge victorious it will be the third time post-lockout they’ve dropped the Capitals in seven games, while Washington will be looking to avenge the 5-0 Game 7 loss they were handed by New York in 2013. As is the case with every seventh game in NHL history, there is always one hero, a player who steps up and puts his team on his shoulders and propels them to victory.

Already winners of one Game 7 this post-season, the Capitals won thanks to late-game heroics by Evgeny Kuznetsov in the first round against the New York Islanders. Now taking on the Islanders’ crosstown rival Rangers, they’re going to need someone else to step up if Barry Trotz wants to head to his first career conference final. Regardless of the outcome, though, there will be a hero. Here are five potential candidates: Read more

The heat is on for superstars Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid

Alex Ovechkin  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

When Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz compared Alex Ovechkin to Hall of Famer Mark Messier after Game 1 of his team’s second-round series against the New York Rangers, he probably didn’t realize how soon his captain would have to prove him right.

Messier and Ovechkin are the only two players in NHL history to be named a first-team all-star at two different positions. Like Messier, Ovechkin has a rare blend of speed, skill and physicality. And now, like Messier, Ovechkin is putting himself out there by guaranteeing a victory, the way Messier did 21 years ago for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final against the New Jersey Devils. Read more

Alex Ovechkin makes his guarantee, says the Capitals will win Game 7

Alex Ovechkin (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

In New York Rangers lore, “The Guarantee” brings forth memories of Mark Messier calling his shot before Game 6 of the 1993-94 Eastern Conference final against the New Jersey Devils and putting the team on his back with a natural hat trick in the third period en route to a 4-2 win. If it’s up to Alex Ovechkin, the Rangers will be on the other side of a guarantee come Wednesday.

With Sunday’s 4-3 loss to New York still fresh in his mind, Ovechkin met with media following Game 6 and delivered his version of the Messier Guarantee.

“We’re going to come back and win the series,” Ovechkin told CSN’s Chuck Gormley post-game, before adding that Washington will move on to play whoever wins the second-round series between Montreal and Tampa Bay.  Read more

Rangers stake out early lead, hang on for dear life to beat Caps, force Game 7

Rangers winger Chris Kreider scores one of two goals Sunday against Washington in Game 6 of New York's second-round series against the Capitals.  (Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Rangers have made a habit of winning games by a 2-1 score in the 2015 NHL playoffs. Five of their seven post-season wins heading into Sunday night’s second-round showdown with Washington came by that score, with a similar pattern repeating: the Blueshirts eke out just enough offense to win, then turn to superstar goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a look that says, “over to you, big guy.” So when the Rangers – who were on the road and facing elimination for a second consecutive game – finished the first period up 2-0 on a pair of fantastic goals from Chris Krieder, they looked as if they were turning a corner and making themselves into a nightmare Game 7 opponent for the Caps.

But they had to play the other two periods. Or, at least, some of them did. Mostly, it was back to the “over to you, big guy” routine with Lundqvist. And although the Blueshirts hung on to defeat the Capitals 4-3 Sunday, and tie the series at three games apiece, their lack of consistency and reliance on their goalie is troubling. Read more

Blueshirts’ Lundqvist on his game with brilliant stop on Caps’ Brouwer

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist stops a shot by Washington's Troy Brouwer Sunday in Game 6 of New York's second-round series with the Capitals. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

While teammate Chris Kreider was scoring goals early and late in the opening period of Sunday’s Game 6 against Washington, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was holding up his end of the battle, making a number of tremendous saves – including one on Capitals winger Troy Brouwer that looked like a sure goal.

The Blueshirts were up 1-0 late in the first period at Verizon Center when Washington moved into New York’s zone with the puck; Caps winger Jason Chimera took the first shot on Lundqvist, but it was his incredible stop on Brouwer on the rebound that had jaws dropping: Read more

Kreider gets Rangers on scoresheet seconds into Game 6 with unreal individual effort

Washington's Karl Alzner and Rangers winger Chris Kreider battle for the puck. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Facing elimination for the second straight game – in large part because they scored just seven goals in their first five games against the Washington Capitals and star goalie Braden Holtby – the New York Rangers needed to come out with a strong start Sunday in Game 6 of their second-round series. And that’s just what they did, courtesy of left winger Chris Kreider, who used his speed and strength to score an incredible goal just 40 seconds into the first period.

The 24-year-old Kreider picked up a loose puck at center ice and took off like a rocket, with only Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen near the vicinity of himself and Washington’s net. Kreider used his 6-foot-3 frame to get inside position, then went to his backhand and flipped it up and past Holtby to make it 1-0 for the visiting team: Read more

Why Barry Trotz deserves at least a Stanley Cup final appearance

Jared Clinton
Barry Trotz (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

It seems amiss to say someone in the world of sports deserves anything. After all, if it were all about who deserves it the most, would we even play the games? But the thing is, after a while, there are players, coaches and general mangers who we root for and think, “Well, it sure would be nice to see them win something.”

Picture Ray Bourque. Or Lanny McDonald. Or even Marian Hossa. They were all players who, year after year, were denied the sports’ top prize. Bourque won his Stanley Cup in the final year of his career. The same goes for McDonald. And it took Hossa three straight Cup finals with three different teams to finally get handed the trophy.

Now picture Barry Trotz, the coach who did something with nothing more often than arguably any other coach in the history of the league, yet the one who has nothing save a World Championship gold medal to his name. There’s a man who deserves at least the chance to have his team play for a Stanley Cup. Read more