On the heels of his last project, "Hockey's Lost Boy: The Rise And Fall Of George Patterson," documentary filmmaker, Dale Morrisey, has completed his new offering. Soon to hit the festival circuit, "Only The Dead Know The Brooklyn Americans," tells the fascinating story of the New York turned Brooklyn Americans of the National Hockey League.
And the story is told by one of the most recognized voices in the radio/television industry-Larry King. Primarily known for his work on CNN ("Larry King Live"), King, a native of Brooklyn, New York, was a perfect choice for the job. King was a youngster when talk of Brooklyn obtaining an NHL franchice surfaced in the early 1940s. In his role as the narrator, it quickly becomes obvious that his memories from that time never left him. King's emotional attachment to the Brooklyn Americans shines through with every word spoken into the microphone.
Early in the documentary, King sets the scene for what we are about to watch. Morrisey's dialogue comes to life when King explains:
Then, as if by Devine right, we became the Brooklyn Americans and they became us. These star-spangled Amerks were ours to cheer for. They were equal parts fantasy, heart, desperation, grit and guts...Like all great fairy tales, there was a hero. Our hero was "Red" Dutton. Dutton, an immigrant to our Borough, but we were all immigrants. He understood us and he understood the Amerks belonged in Brooklyn. And so he moved them, moved them in name and moved them in spirit, but couldn't quite move them in the flesh. Then, the fantasy met the facts and the facts were joyless and bitter. Just like that the Amerks were gone...And with their death, so began the skid. The Dodgers were next, off to LA. Businesses moved and so did families...But miracles of miracles, Brooklyn is back. The NHL is back where Dutton wanted them all along. A time to celebrate and a time to remember. To remember the team that was here first and remember "Red" the man who brought the Amerks through the desert, but was not allowed to bring them to the promised land.
Another wise casting decision by Morrisey was his selection of historians to appear on camera. These individuals include Stan Fischler, J.A. Ross, Sam Wesley, Steven M. Cohen and Eric Zweig. Like Larry King, longtime hockey writer, author and broadcaster, Stan Fischler, is another big name talent associated with this presentation. When Fischler talks about hockey in New York City people take note and listen. His vast knowledge of events and stories is unmatched. He makes a major contribution when commenting on the two main characters in Brooklyn Americans history-Bill Dwyer and "Red" Dutton.
Bill Dwyer was a New York City mobster who dealt in bootlegging. In 1925 he purchased the NHL Hamilton Tigers and moved them to the Big Apple. The Tigers became the New York Americans and played their home games at Madison Square Garden. Ultimately, they would share the Garden with the New York Rangers once they appeared on the scene. Off the ice, Dwyer's players often fell prey to the NYC nightlife and it showed in their on-ice performance. Dwyer's downfall came in 1936 when the authorities successfully won a lawsuit they brought against him relating. Unable to meet his financial obligations, Dwyer lost his team as the National Hockey League took control of the Americans.
Traded to the New York Americans by the Montreal Maroons on May 14, 1930, "Red" Dutton is the pivotal figure in the Brooklyn aspect of the story. Dutton hung-up his skates after the 1935-36 season and went from playing-coach to taking full control of the organization once Dwyer departed the following year.
By the time the 1941-42 campaign rolled around, Dutton realized his team needed a new identity and a change of venue from Madison Square Garden. The new identity came when he renamed them the Brooklyn Americans. When asked why Brooklyn, Dutton replied, "I've always regarded Brooklyn as one of the finest sports centres in the world. The way the fans support baseball and football Dodgers convinced me they would be just as rabid for hockey."
Dutton's dream was to build a new arena in Brooklyn (Kings County) for the Americans to call home. In the meantime, they practiced at the Brooklyn Ice Palace and most of the players resided in the Borough.
A native of Russell, Manitoba, Dutton's Brooklyn dream turned into a nightmare just one year after making the name change. In a move to control the New York hockey market, Madison Square Garden informed Dutton no dates were available for his team in the 1942-43 schedule. "We're out of the league because Madison Square Garden forced us out and for no other reason. We're out because Madison Square Garden didn't have any dates available for us this coming season. And you can't keep an NHL franchise with no ice to play on," Dutton told reporters at the time.
The final curtain call for the Brooklyn Americans at MSG came on March 15, 1942. A three goal night by Murph Chamberlain enabled the Amerks to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3.
Not wanting to divulge too much, I will leave the colourful stories and the twist and turns in the narrative for Dale Morrisey to reveal in his documentary.
After watching the final product, several important observations were made. First, it was apparent that Morrisey paid special attention to the most vital components of filmmaking-research/writing, casting, principal photography and editing. All these come together to tell a concise and complete story. Also, the musical score by Greg Pliska adds an underlying mood that enhances the visuals.
Above all, it is not "Only The Dead Know The Brooklyn Americans," but thanks to Dale Morrisey, anyone viewing his documentary will know the story of the Amerks.
This documentary rates 10-out-of-10 hockey pucks!
To read my review of "Hockey's Lost Boy" please click HERE