Friday, January 9, 2015

The Stories Behind the Story
by Jim Panenka, Dallas Correspondent
The Dallas Stars' 1999 Stanley Cup Championship was something special. There were so many interesting stories related to the players this season. And the championship meant much more than winning it all for one year.
For some, it was closure. For some, it was things coming full circle. For others, it was personal vindication.
But all these stories combine to describe something that transcended even the game itself. It was a big hunkin' slice of real life.
The Eagle Soars
Ed Belfour
by Meredith Martini
The most obvious story is that of goaltender Ed Belfour, previously known as "Edward the Berserker" or more simply "Psycho Eddie." Ed Belfour has always been a good goalie. He backstopped the Chicago Blackhawks for quite awhile, and never got much to take away from it. Chicago usually made the playoffs, but they were normally out early.
Even when the Hawks were their most dangerous with the likes of Jeremy Roenick and Chris Chelios, they were able to take the whole enchilada -- to win a championship.
Belfour left the Blackhawks, and bailed on the Sharks. He joined the Dallas Stars to simply cash in, some thought. His reputation as a hot-headed guy who was quick to get distracted from the game dogged him. So did the fact that he never held the hardware.
Belfour arrived to play with the Stars and immediately got into a pissing contest with head coach Ken Hitchcock. He kept to himself, and remained an enigma.
While it was obvious Eddie had great goaltending chops, the team didn't know what to make of him at first. He was definitely not used to players dropping in front of him to block shots, and it took 20 or more games before the team got it right.
Eddie would cover anything high, the D-men had first dibs at everything down low. And for chrissakes, if you can - just stay out of the way and let him see the shot! Belfour said he could stop it if he could see it.
Goals did bounce in off defender's sticks, skates, chests, pads, you name it. But, they were relatively insignificant in the big picture - to form a solid shot-blocking defense working in synergy with Belfour's style.
There was that streak that Belfour went through at first where he would either pitch a shutout or totally stink in the nets. There was not much middle ground there. People were questioning his heart, his dedication. But, it was just a period of adjustment.
It was the beginning of the transformation of Ed Belfour from just being a goalie to being a member of a team. A real team. A magical team (OK, that's the last time I'm using that magical thing).
Eddie slowly kept plugging along and got more solid as time went on. His back problems had plagued him the last few years, and some thought they might be too much for him to overcome. In fact, Belfour sat on the bench regularly to avoid flaring up the back problems when they were bothering him. (If you've never had back problems before, lemme tell ya - they are no picnic, Chester! Imagine having evil little gnomes in your back wrenching your muscles 24-7. It ain't pretty)
Anyway, Belfour worked harder than anybody to rehab that back and make it a non-issue. He went through rehab procedures reportedly for an hour or more before and after games to keep everything loose.
And the team got more dangerous with every passing game. Slowly but surely Eddie began to let the real Ed Belfour out in the open. He got more comfortable with his surroundings, and had more trust in his team, as they had for them.
Of course, there was that nasty little business during last year's playoffs, where Belfour did go postal and started to really give it to some of the Detroit Red Wings. His self-destruction directly let to a goal against, and also led to many goals that should have been saves.
No question that was a big setback, and only fueled the fire. But this season things were immediately different. Eddie began the year strong and stayed that way. He remained quiet and let his play do more of the talking. And boy, what great play it was.
Belfour and his backup Roman Turek eventually combined for the best goals-against average in the league. And on they went into the playoffs.
So many were expecting Psycho Eddie to rear his ugly head again. Instead, Belfour was the picture of calm in net. He played better when the pressure was stronger. There is no doubt Belfour plays better when he is challenged.
It must have been tough, because there were some nights an average goalie may have fell asleep in net due to a lack of activity. The Stars were getting great at blocking shots and keeping the puck out of their end.
Playoff series would come and go, but there Eddie would be standing tall in net, unflappable. He gained a tremendous amount of respect from the team and the fans during the regular season, and that just took everything to a fever pitch during the playoffs.
The chants of EDDIE! EDDIE! were getting louder each game, and were coming from the crowd spontaneously - not on cue. Belfour reserved a small section of seats especially for special fans, part of the make-a-wish foundation. He wore symbols of charities on his helmet. He gave back.
There was no question Belfour was instrumental in the Stars winning the Cup this year. Without him, Dallas would have not beaten St. Louis or Colorado. And we all know what he did against Dominik Hasek and the Sabres.
Belfour began showing his true side, and commented that all the support from the legions of fans during these series really got to him. He said it was tough to stay focused on the game and not get emotional. Eddie? Emotional?
When the final goal was scored, Richard Matvichuk skated to Belfour and pounced on him in a congratulatory celebration. They both fell to the ice. Eddie got back up, shook hands with the Sabres, and looked like he was nearly about to crack. The raw emotion and exhaustion was evident on his face.
It was Belfour that held up the Cup and let all the fans that greeted the team at the airport when they came back from Buffalo touch the Cup and share in the celebration.
During the celebration parade and rally held by the city after the championship, the fans re-acted the loudest when the Eagle went by. They demanded Belfour make a speech at the end of the rally after Derian Hatcher thanked the fans. The cheers of EDDIE! EDDIE! were deafening. You could tell Eddie was really jazzed by the whole thing.
All along, the Stars supported Belfour when the media would raise questions about him. After it was all over, it was Eddie who reacted with the most passion. He screamed, he yelled, he laughed. He held the Cup and began kissing and licking it like a lover. Yep, its true - he went nuts - this time with relief and vindication.
All of the doubts, the questions, the insults were washed away with a little happy craziness and some champagne sipped out of the Stanley Cup.
"I'm just a hard working goalie who's proud to be a part of this team," proclaimed Belfour after winning the Cup.
Mikey Mo
That's just one of the stories. How about Mike Modano? Did you see his emotional breakdown on the ice after they finally won? He couldn't control himself. All of the pressure that was put on him was released that day. And man, was it a release - kind of like when the bum in Down and Out in Beverly Hills "serviced" Dave's wife with a kharmic massage - and some other naughty business.
Mike Modano
by Meredith Martini
The idea was Modano finally came full-circle. He broke into the league as a brash young offensive talent that was known as a soft player. He could score a bunch of goals, but only if he didn't have to hit - didn't have to fight along the boards, in the trenches.
Bob Gainey pounded on him over and over to forget his individual glory and play for the team - to become a defensively sound player. Let's just say the battle wasn't pretty. Modano balked at the pressure to change, and often disappeared in games rather than go work hard and get his hands dirty. It was as if a thoroughbred horse was being restrained beyond its will.
It may have actually been Modano's refusal to buy into being a two-way player that prompted Gainey to step down as head coach of the team. If Modano, the most visible player on the team wouldn't listen to him, why should the rest of the team?
But slowly, surely old Mo began to turn it around. He saw the work it took to make the team a winner. He matured as a man and a player. He silently began taking on more and more of the pressure of producing for the team.
When Ken Hitchcock replaced Gainey, Modano heard more of the same message. Hitchcock declared that his system is a defensive system that every player must follow, or they will not play.
Not many people know this, but Modano nearly did leave the team when his old contract was up just before the 1997-1998 season. He didn't want to buy into the system fully. He considered moving to another team. But, somewhere along the way he made the decision to go for it, to see if the system could actually produce a winner. Too many times under Gainey's lead the team lost, because not enough players stuck to the system, and because the team already had that losing stigma. They didn't believe it could make a difference.
But Modano finally worked hard, and remained faithful to the team plan. The results were immediate. Modano still scored, and in bunches. He was on pace to blow out the scoring race last year before Marchment got to him and blew out his knee.
Modano recovered fully. He even scored hat tricks three times this season. But, he quickly got a reputation for being a solid two-way player that could kill penalties, score short-handed goals, shut down the opposition's best center, and score nearly at will to boot.
He received a lot of attention from the opponents because of this. A lot of attention. He was hacked, whacked, tripped and punched every game. He was many times double-teamed by the opposition. One player would knock him off the puck and the other would try to run him when he was off-balance.
But Modano stuck to his guns, and stuck to the team mission. He learned to contribute by baiting the opposition and then making a play, often resulting in an assist. Modano had over 80 points this year, most of them were assists. That signals a fundamental change in a player's style.
So Modano did whatever he needed to do to keep the team winning, whether it was scoring or not.
Going into the playoffs, Modano was kind of quiet at first. He was too tense, he wasn't making a big enough contribution. Instead of receiving praise for his 2-way play, he was criticized for not scoring when he was called upon. Joe Nieuwendyk's second line was really saving the team's bacon when it came to scoring.
Modano took it to heart and eventually figured out how to make an impact. He scored the goal that put the Blues away.
The last two games he played against Buffalo were some of the best games Modano's ever played in his career. Modano played through a broken wrist he suffered during game 4. He wore a soft cast and had the wrist frozen with an anasthetic. Nobody thought he would even finish the series, much less play better than ever before. He was a true force out there, and was very impressive. It was his line that set up and scored the Cup-winning goal.
After that goal was scored, Modano hung his head low in an attempt to disguise all the raw emotion that was pouring out of him. Modano finally won the championship. He could finally be recognized as a legitimate superstar. His solid play will never be questioned, neither will his toughness. The young flashy player finally came full circle and developed into one of the best superstars the game knows.
"We did it and no one can ever take that away from us," said a choked-up Modano in response to answering his critics of all these years.
Mr. Conn Smythe
What about Joe Nieuwendyk's story? He battled through being second-fiddle to the more flashy Modano when he first joined the team, and quietly turned his line into one that could mix it up with Modano's goal-for-goal. Two years previous, Joe was shut out by Curtis Joseph. Cujo stopped Nieuwy's shot that would have won the series against Edmonton.
He was finally about to be rewarded for his efforts last year during the playoffs, that was until Bryan "The Wrecker" Marchment took Nieuwendyk out along the boards after Joe scored against the Sharks and nearly did it again the next shift.
Nieuwendyk had to have both knees reconstructed. Nieuwy came back this season stronger than ever. His knees were sore at first, and Joe was a little gun-shy at first. But once he was hit a few times and realized he would hold up, Nieuwendyk turned the corner and never looked back.
Joe ended up scoring many of the most important goals in franchise history. The call them game- winners. During the playoffs, they take on a whole new meaning. Joe was always there, out of nowhere, scoring goals when the team needed them the most. During one of the games, Nieuwendyk scored the only two goals the team had, including the game-winner.
At the time, out of ten goals he had during the playoffs, something like six of them were GWGs (game-winners). For his clutch play, and his reputation as a gentleman and a quiet leader, Nieuwendyk was rewarded the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. It was an amazing effort to battle back from the adversity he faced the previous year.
His first action upon accepting the MVP trophy was to immediately skate to Ed Belfour, who was definitely a front-runner for the MVP along with Nieuwendyk, and congratulate his teammate and tell him he could have won it just as easily. It's just the kind of guy Joe is.
Don't forget the stories of:
Ken Hitchcock and his remarkable turnaround after nearly eating himself out of a career. Derian Hatcher's evolution into a mature player and a true captain. Bob Gainey's great work as GM to construct this team. The Montreal Canadiens connection (Gainey, Wilson, Ludwig, Keane, and Carbonneau all played for Les Habs).
Not to mention the stories of:
Sergei Zubov
by Meredith Martini
Guy Carbonneau's valiant battles and superb defensive play (GUUUUYYYYY!) Richard Matvichuk's shot blocking, Darryl Sydor's incredible heart, will, and talent, about Sergei Zubov's brilliance, silky smooth passes, and heart-stopping defensive plays (he's nuts I tell ya, just plain nuts!), about Blake Sloan's incredible speed and great plays, about Jamie Langenbrunner's ten playoff goals (as many as Jere Lehtinen), about Grant Marshall's grit and battle, about Craig Ludwig and his shin pads, about Reunion Arena and its ice ruts, bouncy boards, Plexiglass panels, long lines to the can, and Plexiglass panels that would fall out, about the Stars' 6-0 record at home when singer BJ "raindrops keep falling on my head" Thomas sings the national anthem, about the 8-2 record the DALLAS! STARS! Song that Vinnie Paul and the heavy metal group Pantera recorded to inspire the team during the playoffs, the new arena, high school hockey in Dallas, all of the flags on cars in the city to support the team during the playoffs, just to mention a few.
I could go on, but you get the idea. There are many stories behind the story. The 1999 Dallas Stars are a remarkable family. A family that stuck together no matter what the challenge. And a family that shared its triumphs with its fans. And a family that went through profound sacrifices to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup. And that is another story all by itself...


Ken Hitchcock

C-Mike Modano, Guy Carbonneau, Joe Nieuwendyk, Tony Hrkac, Brian Skrudland, Derek Plante. LW- Benoit Hogue, Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Botterill, Dave Reid, Brent Severyn, Jere Lehtinen. RW- Blake Sloan, Brett Hull, Mike Keane, Grant Marshall, Pat Verbeek. D-Derian Hatcher, Craig Ludwig, Darryl Sydor, Shawn Chambers, Richard Matvichuk, Sergei Zubov, Doug Lidster, Brad Lukowich. G-Ed Belfour, Roman Turek.

Injuries: Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. (Sorry about that, a little personal exorcism there now that it's safe)

Traded Roman Turek, g, to St. Louis for a third-round draft pick.

First Round vs Edmonton: Stars wins 4-0  
4/21 Edmonton     W 2-1
4/23 Edmonton     W 3-2 
4/25 at Edmonton  W 3-2 
4/27 at Edmonton  W 3-2 3 OT

Second Round vs St. Louis: Stars win 4-2
5/07 St. Louis     W 3-0
5/09 St. Louis     W 5-4 OT
5/11 at St. Louis  L 3-2 OT
5/13 at St. Louis  L 3-2 OT
5/15 St. Louis     W 3-1
5/17 at St. Louis  W 4-3 OT

Third Round vs Colorado: Series tied 3-3
5/22 Colorado     L 2-1
5/24 Colorado     W 4-2
5/26 at Colorado  W 3-0
5/28 at Colorado  L 3-2 OT
5/30 Colorado     L 7-5
6/01 at Colorado  W 4-1
6/04 Colorado     W 4-1

Stanley Cup Finals vs Buffalo: Stars won series 4-2
6/08  Buffalo    L 3-2 OT
6/10  Buffalo    W 4-2
6/12  at Buffalo W 2-1
6/15  at Buffalo L 2-1
6/17  Buffalo    W 2-0
6/19  at Buffalo W 2-1 3OT    

Pacific Division    GP   W   L   T   PTS   GF   GA   
  p-Dallas          82  51  19  12   114  236  168 
  x-Phoenix         82  39  31  12    90  205  197  
  x-Anaheim         82  35  34  13    83  215  206  
  x-San Jose        82  31  33  18    80  196  191  
  Los Angeles       82  32  45   5    69  189  222 


by Jim Panenka, Dallas Correspondent

This last and final edition of News from the Stars is now on tap. Hope you enjoy it with a frosty mug. I know I certainly did.
Stars Win Stanley Cup!
In case you've been holed up in your Y2K survival bunker and have missed all the excitement of the last 3-4 days, the Dallas Stars eliminated the Buffalo Sabres from contention and won the Stanley Cup in what turned out to be the second-longest finals game in history.
The game went to triple overtime. Brett Hull scored the Cup-winner with less than 10 minutes left in the third OT. It was a fitting end to a season so spectacular that it defies description.
Both teams absolutely left whatever they had in them on the ice that night. Buffalo played well enough to have won the series, there's no question about that. In fact, for the first two periods of regulation, and the first overtime period, Buffalo played stronger than Dallas.
The difference was a goaltender named Ed Belfour. The Eagle played what amounted to a flawless series. He seemed to actually get calmer as the playoffs went on.
Dominik Hasek had really made only one major mistake the entire game, and that was to leave a very small opening between his right arm and the right goalpost when he was hugging that side of the net, slightly off- balance.
It was the fact that he was a little off-balance that probably caused Hasek to leave that hole open. The gap was only there for about four seconds. But, that is all the time that Jere Lehtinen needed to somehow take possession of the puck and deftly deposit it into that narrow gap as easily as you might deposit a quarter into a coke machine.
And there it was. The only goal Dallas would score until some 4-5 hours later. The Sabres scored also, so the teams played four periods knotted up at one apiece.
The game was quite possibly some of the best hockey that's ever been played. That's no exaggeration. For these people to play so long at such a high intensity level, and to actually improve the level of play as the game went on, is just unimaginable.
The entire series was a treat, for that matter. It was hard to imagine the finals being any better than the series against the Colorado Avalanche, but somehow it was. It was more of a defensive series, and wasn't quite as exciting as the run and gun battle with the Avs. But to watch both teams play so tightly with nearly no mistakes being made was something spectacular.
Dallas lost game 4 to two major defensive mistakes. The D-men made up for it by blocking nearly every shot in game 5 before it got to Belfour. Lets just say the defensemen were also very careful when making passes, being doubly sure that there was a Dallas recipient waiting, and in a clear lane, rather than a random chop towards the boards as sometimes happens in a rush. And when a shot did make it through, Belfour was there to make the stop. Quietly. Calmly.
So thorough was the Stars' dominance in this game that Buffalo only got a handful of shots, and none of those were a threat. In fact, the Stars shut out Buffalo and won the game 2-0.
The Sabres acted as if they expected Dallas to make the same type of mistakes as before. Instead, the Stars actually got better and played tighter, if that was even possible to begin with!
So both teams carried a heavy bag full of resolve into game 6. Buffalo blew most of their load early, but Ed Belfour hung in there and kept Dallas in the hunt, as his team got stronger late.
And as will be documented well in this issue, and ad nauseum in all the other trade rags, game six was something special. To see Brett Hull hobbling around in front of Hasek and furiously swatting at that puck before it went in was amazing in itself, considering Hull was in pretty sorry shape because of injury.
You could sense the pressure to put the game away by somebody- ANYBODY - was building with each successive faceoff. These guys were playing for over five hours, and something had to give. Even the referees had that "geez- lets get this crap over with, already!" look in their eyes.
But then history was made. Hull pushed the puck past Hasek, who most certainly could not believe his eyes. Hull nearly fell as he raised his arms to celebrate, and then he and Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen found a corner to get together in a huddle, arms around each other, celebrating the fact that their impossible dream had just come true. Dallas fulfilled its destiny by becoming the world champs. Finally.
Later, when the team skated the Cup, you could tell everyone was very happy - but at the same time nearly delirious from fatigue. This moment really drove home the concept of just how hard it is to earn a chance to sip some bubbly from the oldest and most revered prize in all of sports. And it was good.
Season Review
The Stars list of accomplishments were long this year:
114 points for the season, 15 straight wins, no more than three consecutive losses, a win/loss record of something like twenty or more games over .500, a second-consecutive President's Trophy, a Jennings Trophy, the Pacific Division championship, the western conference championship, the Stanley Cup. And individually, a Selke award from the previous year along with this year's Conn Smythe.
How did it all start?
Dallas started this season with the weight of the world's expectations on them. The team began training camp in Vail with a quiet resolve. From the very beginning it was clear that the Stars meant business this year.
But, the big story- and what could be considered the final key piece missing to the Stars' puzzle- was when owner Tom Hicks gave management the green light to go pursue free agent Brett Hull with some big bucks.
Hull at the time was quoted as saying that the money wasn't important- that the only thing on his mind was the chance to play on a winning team. In fact, Hull turned down more money from Chicago to play for the Stars. And as that medieval warrior told Indiana Jones when he picked the Holy Grail out from a slew of counterfeits: "you have chosen...wisely."
How's that for an obscure reference! We're pulling out all the stops for the final show!
Anyway, an air of controversy immediately surrounded the team after that. Brett was not known to be very quiet or gracious in the past. In fact, this very reporter was worried that instead of being the missing link, Hull would be the disruptive force that tore the team apart.
Things were all ready in delicate balance with the rantings and ravings of Eddie Belfour taking center stage. Belfour was an enigma when he first joined the team. He was combatitive, and didn't communicate well with anyone. In fact, while he and the team were learning each other's tendencies- Belfour would send an unmistakable message to the team, if he wasn't happy with the way things were going down on the ice.
Eddie would simply play like crap. A total washout. He would barely try. In fact, the contrasts between the games where he was happy, and those where things weren't going well were totally obvious. It was really simple - either Belfour would get a shutout, or he would give up at least 3-4 goals. There just didn't seem to be much in-between. It was almost comical.
But, that quickly quieted down the previous year, and Eddie showed none of that this season.
Metaphorically speaking, Brett Hull turned out to be a big puppy dog. Who'da ever thunk it?! While there was the early controversy over a quote that Hull had said "Brett Hull can't do anything in 11 minutes" or something like that, it turned out that it was really a non-issue. Hull was quoted out of context.
And coach Hitchcock, who I'm sure had some choice words he kept to himself about the whole thing, only had the following to say in public:
"We're a family here. If we've got any laundry that needs to be aired out, it will get aired out inside this locker room and nowhere else," said Hitchcock.
And business went on as usual. Dallas opened the season with a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres, if that wasn't ironic enough. And Brett Hull scored his first goal as a Star against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first week of the season. That's pretty weird, too - considering Hull may have ended up in Chicago where father Bobby was a hero.
But other than that, Dallas quickly built up a winning record and held it for pretty much the rest of the season. During the midseason break, coach Hitchcock put the players through a grueling training camp to get them into shape for the stretch, and to be physically ready to carry momentum on into the playoffs.
That must have not been a popular call in the locker room. While Modano joked that it was a payback to him from Hitchcock for scoring a hat trick a few days earlier, it eventually leaked out to the press that the players were supposedly beginning to get a little fed up with Hitch cracking the whip on them. They were winning most games with authority, after all.
A news story leaked out that possibly Hitchcock was losing the buy-in from the players that was oh-so- crucial to a successful playoff run. But, after the story was leaked, players were quoted up and down in support of Hitchcock and his system, claiming that was what brought them here.
And amazingly enough, Brett Hull was not really heard from in the papers again. He just put his head down and got busy, becoming a potent force on the already-dangerous line of Modano and Lehtinen.
A lot of the magic began flipping between Modano's line and Nieuwendyk's. If anybody was missing from the first line because of injury, then the second line would step in and provide whatever was necessary to win, and vice-versa.
In fact, that really was the unofficial theme of the whole season: do whatever it takes to win. Just keep winning.
And they did. Actually, Dallas really stole the last part of the regular season. No other team really came close to the domination the Stars would show game after game. Well, I mean domination in the context that they kept winning. Some of the wins were pretty damn ugly. And some of them were downright miracles. Just as it would seem the opponent could skate down the clock with a lead, the Stars would find somehow, some way, to roar back and steal the two points.
And really, the only ties Dallas was involved with were with teams that were on a roll and had a death grip on the game. The Stars just refused to lose, and split a point with the team rather than lose both, most often.
It didn't really matter who contributed the magic. The Dallas Stars, under the careful coaching of Hitchcock and assistants Rick Wilson and Doug Jarvis, were truly a universal team in the sense that any given combination of players could get the job done for the Stars.
Hitchcock shuffled line combinations to suit his whim of the moment. There was absolutely no continuity, except that you could count on Modano playing with Lehtinen, if both were healthy. You could also usually count on the Hatcher-Matvichuk pairing.
But even the netminders were shuffled all season long. Although, it later became clear that the more important games Belfour played, the more he was the numero uno goalie of choice. But Hitchcock refused to name a starter, claiming that either was fully capable of winning for the team. And it was true. Turek played a stellar season, posting numbers that many starting goalies were envious of. Which is pretty impressive considering he was a "rookie" backup.
It all became like clockwork, for the most part. As long as you went into a game counting on the fact that the starting lines would not be consistent from game to game, and also counting on the fact that you just might see any given player playing at any given position, you could usually also count on a win from Dallas.
While it was bizarre to see defenseman Sydor moved to left wing, and Brett Hull and Jere Lehtinen playing on their off-wings, and Brett Hull being moved down to the third line for inspiration, and guys whom we'd never heard of or seen before stepping into the lineup and playing like they'd been there all their lives, it was just business as usual for Hitchcock and Dallas.
The wins just kept coming.
The composure of the team was pretty unorthodox, as mentioned above. But there is absolutely no doubt that the team really was a close family unit. There was no way that the players could be shuffled in and out, and even rotated about (hey- there's a song in there somewhere) during the same game and still keep the overall momentum in the Stars' favor. Many other teams simply would have imploded under that type of pressure. But not the Stars. They just kept winning. (sense a theme here?)
Well, as most of you already know- the team finished at the top during the regular season and went into the playoffs as the top seed. Nearly every opposing coach was quoted after having to face Dallas as saying "the work ethic of this team is incredible. They just keep rolling lines and coming after you."
That was just a very veiled way of them saying "geez, those guys play great! I wish our team could play and work like that!."
Dallas swept Edmonton (despite the triple-OT game 4 war). Guy Carbonneau and Ed Belfour helped keep Dallas in it as the Stars took St. Louis to six games and won that series. Mike Keane emerged as the hero of the moment and absolutely schooled Patrick Roy and his former Colorado teammates. It was embarrasing, the way this guy just slapped them in the face over and over.
Can you ever forget game 7 against the Avs? That had to have been a classic all-time playoff war there, buddy. The buzz around this whole series was just incredible. But as predicted, Roy and his buddies folded under the pressure. Belfour stands strong. Dallas wins in seven.
Then, there's the Buffalo series. Thank God it wasn't a sweep. As a matter of fact, it was the most competitive finals series in some 4-6 years. Dallas wins in six, barely.
Quite frankly, if the Stars had to take that last series to a game 7, there's no telling how it would have ended up. The Stars were really banged up. And exhausted.
Things were so intense that coach Hitchcock was quoted as saying that there was no clear leader in the series. Not even game-to-game. The only way things could be counted was from shift-to-shift. Yes, it was THAT close, people. That says a whole lot about Dominik Hasek and that Buffalo Sabres team. Congrats to them on a miraculous effort.
But, the important thing was that despite incredible odds- Dallas stuck to their guns and battled well enough to win no matter what it took. The Stars will spend the next few months doing unspeakable things with the Stanley Cup. And it will be well-deserved payback for a remarkable effort. Thanks, Dallas. You guys are great!
* Blake Sloan. This guy came from the Houston Aeros of the IHL and stepped right into the Stars' lineup as if he'd been with them through training camp. In fact, the rest of the core team was so stable, that Hitchcock basically tinkered and experimented all year long, looking for the right combinations of players for the right situation.
But Sloan really impressed. The guy skates very well, and plays with a lot of energy and passion. During some of those boring dog-day games, when most of the team was tired and slow, Sloan was out there jetting around and creating all kinds of havoc with his energy. He really stood out, and was quickly rewarded with a semi-permanent position.
* Roman Turek. Dallas had to trade Turek before he was exposed to the expansion draft, so they went ahead and unloaded him to St. Louis for a draft pick before he was drafted away anyway. But believe me, everyone is sorry to see this guy go. He's a big, imposing guy- but in the locker room he was a firecracker. It was said he was always capable of staying loose and cracking his team up with humor, whether it was during warm-ups, or during a 2-1 game against Detroit with the Red Wings trying to pound down the door with three minutes left.
In addition to all that, Turek played totally solid in the nets. He and Ed Belfour combined to win the Jennings. That's how well he played for the Stars.
* There were many more little stories to tell, but those will be told elsewhere this issue. The biggest surprise of all this season was that this team gelled together and rolled through any and every obstacle in its way to become the absolute undisputed best team in the league at this point in time. It's just an incredible story. As Hitchcock was quoted as saying:
"This is a magical team. While we might have more talent here someday, I don't think that I might ever be fortunate enough to coach another team like this one," said Hitchcock.
* Not getting to take part in all the celebrations. Dallas' season was so damn good that the only really disappointing thing I can mention is that the team snubbed yours truly when he groveled and begged for a chance to take part in all the Cup celebrations. Yeah, that'll REALLY suck.
You know, you follow the team all year during '95-'96 when they SUCKED. You go to every home game when half the arena is empty. You scream your ass off until your voice is hoarse cheering on the team when everyone else is looking at you like your a freak and asking what the hell an icing is. You evangelize for the team and for the game. You volunteer to write good things about the team. You spend hours you don't really have attending games and watching games and listening to every single damn game, just to make sure you have your facts straight when you write good things about the team. You spend thousands of dollars on game tickets. You play the game yourself to understand it better and to have more of an appreciation of just how tough it is what they do out there. You buy Stars merchandise. You throw all the good kharma you have towards them. You live, eat, breathe, and die Dallas Stars hockey. For what, I ask you - WHAT!?
All for one thing: the chance to bask in the glory of their championship. To be near the Cup. To touch it. To revere its glory. To say "woo hoo! Good job, fellers!"
And what does the team's PR department do? Leave you dangling on a rope in open air for all the buzzards to swoop in and pick at the carcass. Not so much as a return phone call! Thanks, Larry!
It's not like I'm bitter or anything, really. I just wanted them to throw me a small bone for 3-4 years of solid dedication and some major praise from your trusty old Stars correspondent.
Oh, well. That is life. Sometimes you just have to swallow hard, grit your teeth, and just keep going. It's not like I'm a Keith Olbermann or something.
Truth be known, Larry and the Stars treated me very well, but that last part, when it was most important to me, left a bitter taste. But I do thank them for the hospitality.
I am very proud of all the guys on the team. They really overcame profound challenges to win that damn cup. And they truly deserve it. In a world where corporate whores and self-minded weasels rule the day- it's nice to know that a great group of solid guys can come together under a solid, healthy family atmosphere and win everything.
And don't try that "Tom Hicks bought the Stanley Cup" drivel. Look at what happened to both Colorado and Detroit when they went out and spent megabucks for hired guns to patch together a team with little or no heart and soul. They both imploded. While Dallas may have bent, groaned, and squeaked a little- they never fell apart. Never. Great job, guys!
Soapbox Time (feel free to go to the fridge)
In fact, it's hard not to sit here and get emotional about all of this. Very emotional. It gives you a definite feeling of closure.
The Stars used to be my team. I truly feel a connection to these guys. I have talked to them, interviewed them, watched them go through pain, injury, and grief. I have seen their happy families. I have shopped with them at the same grocery store. I have cheered them when they succeed, rallied for them when they don't.
I have never before been around a group of people like this current Stars team. They are a family. And I am a small part of it, whether or not I'm the red-headed stepchild.
But, the Stars are no longer my team. The corporate whores and self-minded weasels have stepped in and taken control because the team is now a winner. Of course, this is not an indictment of the Stars organization itself, just the fact that enjoying this team during the playoffs was priced well beyond what most mere mortals could pay. And it's only going to get worse.
I do believe owner Tom Hicks should make money with this team, because his solid ownership and can-do attitude was as an important part of this team as was Gainey's expert guidance. And Hitchcock's masterful coaching.
But now it's just a business.
The team isn't that far-removed from the days before the average starting salaries were under a million dollars. And guys played for the love of the game. This team under Bob Gainey's masterful craftsmanship is a living link to the ghosts of hockey's past. Let's hope nobody ever forgets that past, when the players were humble, and were glad to be making a solid living by doing something they loved doing anyway.
But that's my opinion. I could be wrong.
Offseason Changes
Dallas will no longer have an LCS correspondent. That is the most important offseason change. (ahem)
Bob Gainey has already begun the long process of building for the day when the current team has to be dismantled due to free agency and age. He has been signing many different players to restock the bench.
People criticize the fact that this team was built for the short-haul. But they weren't paying attention. Gainey is.
Just some of the names you will probably be hearing soon: Alan Letang, Marty Turco, Jason Botteril, Steven Gainey (yes, that Gainey), Jon Sim - ah hell, I forget the rest. Just keep in mind that this team will remain on a solid foundation for years to come.
I don't really see any significant player moves in the offseason. But you never know. Carbo is going to give it a go for another year, so that should be the cement that helps hold most of the current team together.
Remembering the Stars of the Recent Past
Remember some of the names of those who helped the Stars get here, but are no longer with the team? Brent Gilchrist, Todd Harvey, Dave Gagner, Neal Broten, Shane Churla, Andy Moog. We remember, guys. We remember. Sorry not to mention more of you.
This is the End
Well, that's about all I've got to say about that. Thanks to anyone who may have read this article and derived some value or entertainment from it. Thanks to LCS for getting this rink rat on the inside. It was an experience I'll never forget.
That's the news, and I am outta here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


I've been neglecting this page. Sorry. I'm arranging thoughts and ideas for a new post. Thanks for your patience. New post coming soon (3-4 days).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Want some fascinating reading? Immerse yourself in the brilliance that is Neil Peart. This is the man that writes better than I ever could, and plays drums better than my feeble mind can keep up with. He is my arch-nemesis. For it is he that I ultimately aspire to be, in my own way.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Well, the gauntlet has been thrown. Some NHL journalists recently recognized a common trend I had noticed. After the tragic death of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, there were a bit too many retweets and carbon copy mentions of the same stories over and over again. One could argue that this was an inevitable fallout from the 9/11 era. However, I posit that this trend was born from the social media era. This began some time thereafter. I have noticed way too many typos, broken links, and other trends in mainstream web media. In short, it appears that the push for instant relevance has given way to journalistic integrity. There was an argument in the NHL world that too many of the insiders (read complacent accredited journalists) relied on the breaking news from their BlackBerries, and the usual media melees with the players and analysts, to make their stories. I tend to agree with this. As a bit of background, I was a HUGE Dallas Stars fan from 1995-1999, and was lucky enough to obtain a team press pass thanks to an innovative group of web journalists from the website LCS was an exercise in pushing the boundaries of the NHL news coverage of the day. In short, the editors threw in honest news, opinions, rants, etc (a little bit of this, a little bit of that) and as a consequence molded a template for sports journalism in the web era that is unknowingly being copied and followed to this day. Fast forward to my contributions. LCS put out a simple email roll call for any and all team-specific fans to become official team report correspondents. I answered the call for Dallas. I combined newspaper columns, watching games via tape, attending games, and an honest attempt at intuition to derive the current state of the team, the vibe from the players, guessing coaching moves, etc to form a holistic "state of the union" report for the team every two weeks or so. In so doing I experienced many a priceless moment both on the scene, in Reunion Arena and the locker rooms, and off the scene from my trusty computer, recapping the trials and tributations of my boys, The Stars. While I did get way too detailed and verbose in some team reports and feature columns, I felt it was the least I could do to repay my LCSHockey brethren for the honor of having a press pass. To affirm an earlier point, I spent an average of 3-4 hours or more sweating every detail, quote, and punctuation of every article. Indeed the LCS editors pretty much got to the point where they would be like "dude, just submit already!" Where is this heading? I think too many "professional" journalists have lost their way, and are relying too much on technological and editorial crutches to be "first" to report something, anything. Too bad they are in line with a dozen or so other journalists to succumb to the same pressures to deliver instant, freeze-dried news over something personal, unique, and intuitive. Anyway, that's the view from this seat. To think, I did everything I did to compose team reports as a volunteer. I wasn't payed any beans at all, except for a press pass, and I felt honored, obligated, and privileged to report favorite team to an anonymous group of fans and other correspondents. Something must have got lost in the translation during the social media era, because old school journalists have become distilled, to a degree. The new journalists are not being held to the same standard as some of the traditional fellas. It's not too late, the two schools of reporting can still compare notes and meld the best of both worlds to provide both timely, accurate, and original news for a given team. I have faith. Now, put down the smartphones and pick up a notebook, and pay attention to the team you areop.privileged to be covering. Make me.proud Blast from the past:

Friday, October 21, 2011

La Dolce Con Niente

Yes this is an obvious reference to the movie "Eat, Pray, Love."

However, this phrase has grown to be more of a mantra to my current state of mind.

So I selfishly seek your indulgence as I perform this public reverse psychoanalysis.

I have always considered myself to be a very observant person: in my early years I had little in role models to derive what and who I should become. Therefore my only recourse was to be a mimic of sorts. Due to the then-unknown challenges of being a sole child from a broken home (while I do have three sisters, it seemed as if we were rarely together, and when we were, we all had our personal crosses to bear: effectively leaving me alone as a man-child to face the world) I did not enjoy the privileges of having a steady home, school, nor friends.

For a point of reference, this occurred mostly during the mid to late 1970s.

Since my parents were divorced and involved within an unfortunate and ugly legal battle, it had always been stressed upon me that I must now be the man of the house and be responsible, mature, and most of all forgiving.

For this responsibility to be thrust upon a child who had barely had a chance to enjoy the frivolity of youth, it was a heavy burden, indeed.

Luckily I did have a welcome refuge of sorts, and it was television. Before anyone even knew what the term had meant, I had effectively led a "virtual childhood"

So with the usual mix of good times, welcome back kotter, all in the family, etc I had discovered Star Trek.

This show would become my eventual savior of sorts.

Thanks to the cold logic and lack of emotion shown by Mr Spock, I had finally found a role model worthy of my attention. For it was the lack of logic and reason within my own life that led me to identify more with Spock than any other characters, real or imagined, that I had ever met.

And indeed the show, as well as the character, served as a needed buffer in my life for the erratic chaos I had to endure from day to day life.

While this led me to technology and an inherent understanding of same, indeed this path led me eventually to a career that has been very interesting and rewarding, I had failed to consider one important and inescapable fact: I never learned how to be human and how to interact with my fellow homo-sapiens.

I found them on average to be an emotional and irrational lot that "had no clue" as to who I was and the world I lived in. I did not live in the present, as it was too full of distraction and grey noise.

Fast forward some twenty years later. I found myself most patient, analytical, and the proverbial voice of reason. Since I did not know how to emote with and relate to those I valued or sought to have known, I put it upon myself to always ask others what their issues were, and applied cold logic and reason to help solve whatever problems stood in their way.

This worked and gave me a false sense of value for many years. Yet I still ignored and neglected one person: myself.

After awhile the burdens of stress, lack of genuine fun, and sense that I must live for others before myself began to take their tolls.

As I reached my late 30s and approached my 40s, my id had had enough.

I had discovered a coworker who I had felt had an idyllic life, and we had a common interest in high performance sportscars and technology, etc.

I found myself living vicariously through him. And without realizing it, this had awoken the long dormant beast inside of me that needed to be uncaged.

As you can imagine, the unreconciled "fun" part of me and the logical cold part of me had butted heads for quite some time.

While left unchecked, this internal war of the hemispheres of my brain led to collateral damage, for myself, my friends, and my family.

I was no longer able to be the same person, and I had to walk away from a job I had coveted. And, I effectively sabotaged a friendship that was positive and rewarding, but ultimately left me frustrated.

I deconstructed my life as I knew it. It was both scary and sobering. However, somehow, deep inside of me I knew this was necessary, regardless of the aftermath.

So, after hours and a post that is way too verbose and rambling, we finally have come to the point of this post, long since minutiae.

I have taken a long sabbatical, and am only now finding my way to the path that will lead to an eventual conclusion to the aforementioned battle for my very soul.

While I do not have all the answers, and I have no idea where I am going from here, I do know that the "joy of doing nothing" has been the most important and healing decision I have made thus far.

This leads me to a favorite phrase of mine: "when in doubt, punt!"

The ball is in the air. Who knows who will catch it, or how far they may return it.

The point, I guess, is: I will be watching from the sidelines with a calm curiosity I have not had in many years.

Friday, September 2, 2011

New Camaro convertible

OK, so those that know me realize I am bonkers for the new Camaro (5th Gen). Unfortunately, my means do not currently allow me to own one - YET.

Therefore, although I am quite happy and proud for Chevy/GM that I see at least 4-5 of them everyday, the little green monster sometimes takes over. I cant help but grumble, sigh, and mutter "soon" every time I roll past one.

Today marked a turning point in this less-than-graceful response: I saw a spanking new red SS convertible parked in my apartment garage. it looks GREAT, and I might just get one. This would be the very first vert I've ever owned.  For now, I will just repeat my "soon" mantra and be content they are available, and friggin awesome. I will post a pic of it later.