A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 12, 2016
“In the playoffs, your best players have to be your best players”

"Your best players have to be your best players” is an old sports playoffs adage. In the playoffs, the rotations are shortened and the best players get the most playing time. The best players—as proven in the much longer regular season—must also be a team’s best players in the playoffs.

“Your best players have to be your best players” was cited in 1991, when it was used to describe hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky and his team. The saying usually applies to playoff hockey, but has also been used in basketball.


3 April 1991, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), “HAWKS: Chelios lives for postseason action,” sec. 3, pg. 4, col. 2:
“Your best players have to be your best players. When Wayne Gretzky cranks it up so does everyone else on the team.”
(Chicago Blackhawks coach Mike Keenan.—ed.)

7 June 1993, The Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), “Short bench key to Kings’ strategy” by Al Strachan, pg. D1, col. 5:
To win at key times, your best players have to be your best players.
(Cited as a cliché.—ed.)

7 March 1995, St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, “Blues find life no beach against Stars” by Jeff Gordon, pg. 1C:
Coach Mike Keenan was hoping for more. “We weren’t prepared for a game of this emotional level, no question about it,” Keenan said. “Your best players have to be your best players for you to win. We ended up losing by a goal. The margin between success and failure is very small.”

Google News Archive
14 May 1996, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), “Albom: It’s time for Red Wings’ top players to stand up—and out,” pg. C3, col. 2:
“If you’re gonna win, your best players have to be your best players,” admitted captain Steve Yzerman, one the few Wings willing to face the media after Sunday’s 3-2 defeat.

Twitter
Jeff Hunt
‏@jeffhunt00
your best players have to be your best players
9:19 AM - 13 Nov 2008

Google Books
Wayne Gretzky’s Ghost:
And Other Tales from a Lifetime in Hockey

By Roy MacGregor
Toronto, ON: Random House Canada
2011
Pg. 225:
“Your best players have to be your best players,” the coaches tell us and, presumably, if they weren’t they wouldn’t be.

Twitter
Bob Mackowycz
‏@BobMackowycz
Here’s a Game 7 cliche I’ll admit that I really like: “your best players have to be your best players”. #game7cliches
6:55 AM - 15 Jun 2011

Google Books
Unstoppable!:
The Chicago Blackhawks’ Dominant 2013 Championship Season

By The Daily Herald
Chicago, IL: Triumph Books LLC
2013
Pg. 81:
“Of course we have a lot of depth on this team, but your best players have to be your best players,” Toews said.

Twitter
Russ Mollohan
‏@russmollohan
John Tavares proving once again that if you want to advance your best players have to be your best players. Congrats @NYIslanders
10:14 PM - 24 Apr 2016

Yardbarker
How the Raptors advance or the Heat force Game 7
By Mark Fishman | Last updated 5/12/16
(...)
There’s an old saying in hockey that in the playoffs your best players have to be your best players. It seems redundantly obvious, but it holds remarkably true year after year.

Not shockingly, this adage is also true when it comes to the NBA postseason.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • Thursday, May 12, 2016 • Permalink