The Islanders either are or are not the first NHL team based in Brooklyn.
That such a seemingly simple matter could be debatable speaks to the quirky charm of “Only the Dead Know the Brooklyn Americans,” a documentary now available on video on demand that chronicles their one and only year in existence, 1941-42.
After finishing in last pace that year - the Rangers finished first - they disbanded, with a plan to return after World War II, which (spoiler alert) they never did.
But it’s more complicated than that. The Brooklyn Americans actually were just a re-branded version of the New York Americans, who debuted in 1925-26, a season before the Rangers did, and shared Madison Square Garden with them.
The Rangers were the top dog at MSG, though, and eventually the Americans sought to establish a new beachhead in Brooklyn. They did practice at the Brooklyn Ice Palace in ‘41-42, but they still played at the Garden in Manhattan.
Anyway, it’s all in the documentary, directed by Dale Morrisey, narrated by Brooklyn native Larry King and featuring interviews that include, inevitably, hockey maven Stan Fischler. Also featured are long-gone, colorful characters such as Big Bill Dwyer and Red Dutton.
The film premiered at the Brooklyn Historical Society in April and became widely available this month.
Is it for everyone? Probably not. The target audience for films about hockey in the 1920s to the ‘40s is somewhat limited.
But it’s off-the-beaten-path fun. And It is more relevant than ever now that it appears Brooklyn is set to lose an NHL team for a second time in the coming years, this time not to extinction, but perhaps to Elmont.