I just came across this documentary that TSN in Canada did five years ago: “Playing to Lose.” It’s about the Penguins tanking the 1983-84 season so they could draft Mario Lemieux. It’s very well done, though Penguins VP Tom McMillan has aged horribly.
As for the premise that the Penguins tanked, hey, guilty as charged. But unless you’ve been in a situation like the Penguins were, it's unfair to judge.
The highlights from Mario’s junior career are incredible. Like a video game. The analysis of the tank job is unerring. The sound bites from Penguins Coach Lou Angotti, New Jersey Coach Tom McVie and then-Pens Mike Bullard, Bob Errey and Roberto Romano are amazing. (You remember Romano: The goalie that nearly screwed things up by playing well.)
It’s unnerving to hear Angotti talk about making “a conscious decision” to lose, sending Romano to the minors to “weaken our team,” and “coaching not to win.”
But it was necessary, and it worked.