I know it’s hard to remember anything before March, but close your eyes, breathe deeply, and picture yourself in the summer of 1999 (use your imagination, Gen Zers). It was an innocent time. George Lucas had only just begun ruining Star Wars, Y2K and White House BJs were all we had to worry about, and all of North Texas found itself in the throes of Stanley Cup fever, with no inclination whatsoever to flatten the curve.
In just the sixth year since they had fled Minnesota winters, the newfangled Dallas Stars were competing for the greatest trophy in sports. Back then, we were all hockey bandwagoners, falling in love for the first time with a lovable cast of characters. Hitch. Hully and Mo. Niewy, Zubie and Luddy. Jamie and Jere. Carbo, Derian, Keaner and Syd. Eddie the Eagle and the Little Ball of Hate.
We tore the roof off Reunion Arena when they toppled the mighty Avs to reach the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history. And in the early morning hours of June 20, we lost our collective minds when Brett Hull tiptoed the edge of the crease and banged home a triple-overtime winner to clench the Cup (still a good goal, Sabres fans).
But when the quest to repeat ended with a heartbreaking Finals loss to the Devils, it set off a 20-year death spiral. The Stars made it out of the first round just five times and missed the playoffs entirely in nine miserable seasons, effectively emptying the bandwagon of all but the most die-hard fans. Not even seven coaching changes, new ownership, and a full-on “Victory Green” rebrand seemed to make a difference. Until this year.
Yes, in the most batshit crazy year in recorded human history, the Dallas Stars have overcome another coaching change, organizational infighting, a four-month pandemic pause, mysterious injuries to primary goalie Ben Bishop, and the grueling gauntlet of the NHL’s Western Conference bracket to finally make it back to play for the Stanley Freaking Cup! When the Stars kicked off 2020 at the Cotton Bowl with a rousing come-from-behind victory in the Winter Classic, who knew they’d be pulling the year out of the ditch for all of Dallas nine months later?
Such an unlikely, inspirational tale of perseverance and redemption has at long last brought the sexy back to the Stars bandwagon. So, if you’re new here, welcome! Let’s get you up to speed before the heroes we need battle the hated Tampa Bay Lightning for hockey’s ultimate prize.
NHL Double Bubble | Venue
For the restart after the pandemic pause, the NHL isolated the Western Conference in Edmonton and the Eastern Conference in Toronto. Now everybody’s crashing at the Oilers’ pad, with the Stanley Cup Final hosted at a fan-less Rogers Place.
Bones | Head Coach
Still technically Stars interim head coach, Rick Bowness took over the team in December following Jim Montgomery’s shocking dismissal for “unprofessional conduct.” Bones is an NHL lifer who has been part of 11 organizations as player, assistant, or head coach over his five-decade career. Around the league he’s affectionately known as hockey’s Kevin Bacon.
Dobby | Goalie #35
A career backup who had never started an NHL playoff game, Anton Khudobin has been sensational replacing the MIA Ben Bishop in net. Nicknamed “Dobby” by Alexander Radulov when they were teammates in the minors, his mask features the likeness of Dobby the House Elf. A cartoon character in his own right, Dobby has become an instant folk hero and the emotional spark behind this fairy tale postseason.
Low-Energy Jamie Benn | Left Wing #14
The Captain himself, Jamie Benn, is infamous for his excruciatingly low-energy interviews. But he has been the exact opposite on the ice during this magical run, setting the tone with relentless checking, bone-crunching hits, and timely goals. He also sports the Stars most impressive playoff beard.
Seggy | Center #91
Tyler Seguin, Benn’s linemate and running buddy, was acquired from the Bruins prior to the 2013 season. Much like Mike Modano before him, Seguin was once viewed by some as an immature, one-dimensional hotshot. Now at the ripe old age of 28, he has evolved into a reliable two-way player and respected leader in the room.
Rads | Right Wing #47
The third member of the Stars’ top line, Alexander Radulov, certainly has a flair for the dramatic. Sure, he takes too many stupid penalties, but he’s also a wily goal scorer who has TWO overtime game winners in these playoffs. The last came just 31 seconds into OT of Game 3 against Vegas, completely swinging the momentum of the series.
MIRO! | Defense #4
To many hockey luminaries, second-year defenseman Miro Heiskanen has been the best player in the entire bubble. I mean, the Finals haven’t even started yet and he has already set the Stars franchise record for points in a postseason with 22. Like fellow 21-year-old wunderkind Luka Dončić, Miro only needs one name and should continue to thrill Dallas fans for the next decade.
Klinger | Defense #3
The Stars’ other cornerstone on defense, John Klingberg is known for his endearing toothless grin and seeing eye wristers from the point. Klinger came up big in the West Final, netting the only goal of Game 1 and delivering two clutch assists in the stunning Game 5 comeback that sent the Golden Knights to the showers.
FCC Line | Center #12, Left Wing #15, Right Wing #11
The Stars “energy” line usually consists of the trio of Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau, and Andrew Cogliano. Swarming the offensive zone, chipping in the occasional goal, and upholding community broadcast standards are their primary responsibilities.
The Big Rig | Defense #2
A former Stars prospect reacquired from the Pittsburg Penguins last season, Jamie Oleksiak is an imposing presence on the ice at 6 foot 7. Despite his gangly size, the Big Rig has soft hands, evidenced by his nifty breakaway goal to open the scoring in Game 3 of the West Final.
Denis the Menace | Right Wing #34
Russian rookie sensation Denis Gurianov has taken the bubble by storm, co-leading the Stars with nine goals. He’s already a legend, pounding home a blistering one-timer in overtime of Game 5 to dispatch Vegas and send Dallas to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.
Roooooooope! | Left Wing #24
Or “Hintz from Heloise” as I prefer, Roope Hintz is a speedy second-year winger who hasn’t quite returned to the electrifying potential he flashed in his rookie season. A gifted skater, savvy facilitator, and ringleader of the Stars’ Finnish Mafia, Roope is a solid dark horse pick to be a difference-maker in the Final.
Joe Exotic | Center #16
Also known as “Captain America” (apologies to Roger Staubach), veteran Joe Pavelski joined the Stars as a free agent last summer after a distinguished run as Captain of the San Jose Sharks. He’s the Stars playoff co-leader with nine goals, including a hat trick in Game 4 of the Calgary series — punching in the third goal with just 12 seconds left to force overtime.
Saint Perry | Right Wing #10
Once hated and now tolerated, former Anaheim Ducks Captain Corey Perry was the Stars’ other key offseason acquisition. No longer an elite scorer, Perry is still elite at drawing penalties, mucking things up in front of the net, and making opponents boil into a murderous rage.
The Finnisher | Left Wing #25
Thrust into the Game 7 lineup against the Avs, Joel Kiviranta lived out every hockey player’s wildest fantasy in his first-ever NHL postseason game. Not only did the rookie Finn score a hat trick, but he tied the game late to force overtime and netted the OT winner to send the Stars to the West Final.
Josh & Razor | Radio Team
Adorably excitable play-by-play voice Josh Bogorad and Dallas hockey institution Daryl “Razor” Reaugh are a cozy blanket for nervy Stars fans. The Razor Boy was in the booth for the Stars first Cup run in ’99. Twenty years later, he’s still dispensing mind vitamins and calling the crap out of the action on Sportsradio 96.7/1310 The Ticket.
Grubes | Hype Man
Stars arena DJ Michael Gruber isn’t in Edmonton, but his influence is. During Dallas “home” games in the Final, listen for AAC singalong staples “All The Small Things,” by Blink-182, and “Friends in Low Places,” by Garth Brooks.
The Chain | Good Luck Charm
Introduced to the locker room back in February, this enormous Flavor Flav-esque Dallas Stars medallion is the postgame award given to the MVP of each victory. And throughout this epic playoff bubble journey, the ever-resilient Stars punctuate every chain presentation with the defiant chant “WE ARE NOT GOING HOME!”
Not without Lord Stanley’s Cup, we’re not.