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Loyalist graduate brings hockey history to life through film

A photo of the New York Americans hockey team before they became the Brooklyn Americans.

By Lindsey Cooke [1]

BELLEVILLE – Loyalist College journalism graduate Dale Morrisey is bringing a piece of hockey history to life.

Only the Dead Know the Brooklyn Americans [2], Morissey’s third documentary film, tells the story of New York City’s first NHL team. The film, narrated by former CNN talk-show host Larry King, premiered at the Brooklyn Historical Society [3] Monday night before a crowd of nearly 300.

“They were hoping for maybe 150-200 people. Every time I kept turning around the numbers kept going up and up,” Morrisey told QNet News Wednesday. “They had to keep adding on to the size of the venue because they didn’t expect to have that many people.”

Written, directed and co-produced by Morrisey, the film tells the story of the New York Americans, which in 1925 became the city’s first National Hockey League team. In 1941, they became the Brooklyn Americans.

Morrisey described the team as “lovable losers”.  During the end of the Prohibition period, the team suffered from financial issues. The owner of the team at the time was a bootlegger and rum runner, Bill Dwyer who put them on the market in 1935. In 1941 a fiery defensemen named Red Dutton, managed and coached the team. Dutton changed the name of the team to the Brooklyn Americans. At this point the team had been playing their home games at Madison Square Garden, but Dutton wanted to move the team to play in Brooklyn. That didn’t happen. The Brooklyn Americans had to stop playing in 1942 because of their long-standing financial issues and the war. Dutton wanted the team to start playing again after World War II but the NHL declared the team as retired from the league in 1942.

Morrisey said that he likes telling stories and he loves history. Putting these two elements together to him is like “bringing the past to life.”

“I think that these history films about sports serve a good purpose because they interweave some of the events of the time and bring context to the film. They also help the fan base know that, ‘oh yeah there are players that did things before I was around and help lay the foundation for the sport that I love'” said Morrisey.

The title of the film Only the Dead Know the Brooklyn Americans is inspired by Morrisey’s passion to tell the story of history that people in this century do not remember or know about. “I think that any of the stars of the pre-televised era of any sport suffer because the collective memory of the fan base of any sport can’t think back more than maybe 20 years” he said.

He graduated from Trent University for history and politics. He then went to Loyalist College and graduated from the broadcast journalism program in 1999.

Two retired Loyalist College professors Andy Sparling and Len Arminio helped with the narration of this film. 

Arminio said that as soon as he read the script he thought it was a neat idea and is looking forward to seeing the final cut of the film in Toronto on April 25.

As a retired professor who taught for 28 years and had more than 700 graduates, he still tries to keep in touch with them.

“For me as a teacher the best part of it is seeing what happens to people after they graduate. It’s really great to read their names and watch them on TV, or listen to them on the radio and they’re one of mine and they’re doing a great job. I’m glad they learned something and are putting it to good use and making a good career for themselves” he said.

Arminio and Sparling helped with the narration of another Morissey-produced feature film called Hockey’s Lost Boy [4]. It tells the story of  George Patterson [5], who was the first player to score a goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

All of Morissey’s feature films so far are about hockey and he said that there are more in the works. 

“It just seems that this is a niche that I’m in now” he said.

He also has a film about the NBA that is in production right now.

 

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