Used courtesy Google Images
Jack Buck famously stated the phrase “I don't believe what I just saw!” He sat in a press box broadcast booth as he watched an injured Kirk Gibson do the unthinkable. Dennis Eckersley threw a backdoor slider on a 3 and 2 count. The only problem for Eckersley…he didn’t know Gibson knew that exact pitch was on the way. Gibson swung and the rest is history. The Dodgers won Game 1 of the 1988 World Series and Gibson hobbled around the bases as the immortal man of the moment. Buck then shouted “I don’t believe what I just saw.” It was magical. A phrase that will forever be mentioned in baseball’s greatest moments. However, there’s a problem to that magic moment in baseball history. It’s not a good one in Oakland A’s history. It’s a moment of heart-break. They watched their All-Star closer blow Game 1 of the World Series in the bottom of the 9th inning. The words “I don’t believe what I just saw” ring pure evil in the eardrums of A’s fans. They only wish they can forget that day, that swing, and those words.
I came to this conclusion late at night as I saw a breaking news story. I felt the negative impact of that statement just as Oakland A's fans did in 1988. My favorite player of all-time, who played for my favorite team in my favorite sport, left the team I love. It wasn’t his fault. The team decided to move on without him, and he wants to play one more year.
Dallas, Texas…you better prepare yourself.
Mike Modano will travel north to Detroit to play for the Red Wings. The Wings are probably the most loved and hated hockey franchise in the NHL (excluding the opinion of every Canadian. We know…you Canadians invented hockey and only teams who play in Canada are worth talking about. We get it). But for Stars fans, the Red Wings are the root of all evil.
Mike Modano is the Dallas Stars. The Dallas Stars are Mike Modano. He is the franchise. Without Modano, there’s no hockey in the south. Gretzky is thought to bring hockey to Los Angeles when he was traded there. That was a completely different situation. Modano was drafted by the Stars and has stayed with the Stars his entire career…until now. It isn’t just the records (which he owns), or a Stanley Cup (which he won. Buffalo…the goal counted, get over it). It’s the player, person, and image Modano became during his time in the league. What Modano did for the game is not comparable to Gretzky in LA because Gretzky is remembered by his days in Edmonton, not LA. Mike Modano made hockey in Texas. As Stars commentator Daryl Reaugh said, Modano had the “intoxicating package of speed, scoring, and sex-appeal. He quickly because the team’s and the sport’s identity in the Lone Star State.” Modano holds almost every record in Stars history. He didn’t break records, he shattered them. He reached every milestone possible…plus some. He is the best American hockey player of all-time. Sure, that title is debatable, but there is not one person in their right mind who thinks otherwise. If you do not agree, you are one of the following:
A Sharks, Ducks, Coyotes, Avalanche, Kings, Oilers or Sabres fan
-Modano had his way with the previously mentioned teams. It’s like asking Colts fans if they hate Tom Brady.
Joe Nieuwendyk, the current Dallas Stars GM recently decided to take the franchise in a new direction in order to rebuild. However, speaking for all Stars fans, there would not be a need to rebuild without Modano. If there is a plan to rebuild, then the team must have been successful at one point. The Nashville Predators will not say they are rebuilding because there was nothing built in the first place. Modano built anything and everything in Texas that has the word “hockey” stapled to it. Modano made hockey great in Texas and brought success to an organization that could not have done so without him. Modano is the example of all that is still right in sports. He is not about the money, the guaranteed contract, or the image as every other arrogant sports star (like the guy who just decided to “take his talents to South Beach”). Modano has character. He was supposed to be one of the few that played for one team. The face of a city, the heart of its fans.
My favorite memory from any sport is a simple 5-second scene: Modano blazing through the neutral zone past intimidated defenders, crossing the blue line with the lower tail of his jersey flapping like a flag in the wind, and viewing a quickly released lethal wrist shot climb just out of the reach of a goaltender and into the back of the net. He made it look so easy.
He is the face of hockey in Dallas, in Texas, and in the United States. He was Dallas’ adopted child…and now…he is gone. He will always be the face of the Stars franchise, but he will be playing in a different uniform for his final season. It is difficult to comprehend the fact that Mike Modano will no longer be a Dallas Star. Jack Buck's intentions were positive, but once again, “I don’t believe what I just saw.”