In recent years I've often felt that we as a collective fan base for the Dallas Stars look back a little too often on the team's past; more specifically on the late 90's / early 00's during the team's true glory days that netted the franchise it's first (and so far only) Stanley Cup. After all, it's been more than 10 years since that fateful day in June 1999 and while pointing to the Cup banner (both the actual one in the real arena and the replica one I have in my own home) was nice for the first five years or so, I think fans should be more focused on the here-and-now if not future of a club.
But with the recent nominations of Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour to the hockey hall of fame it's gotten me to think of that past of course and how the Stars really have never truly honored that period in time. Sure it was one Stanley Cup and it was won 12 years ago which kinda feels like ages past, but ask fans of the Vancouver Canucks or Toronto Maple Leafs or San Jose Sharks and I am sure they'd do anything (in Vancouver's case, maybe riot) for a chance to point to a Stanley Cup victory within the last two decades of existence.
Knowing that, it has dawned on me - and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way - that the Stars franchise has never properly honored the past and the magnificent players who once wore the golden star on their chest. Sure there was the reunion in 2007 during all-star weekend in Dallas, but beyond that?
That's why with the calls to the hall that GM Joe and Crazy Eddie have received, it's the perfect time and excuse to start making up for that lack of honoring by retiring some numbers, specifically those numbers worn by players who have been named to the hockey hall of fame and have made a significant impact on the Stars franchise during their time with Dallas.
Being a native of Edmonton, Alberta I can tell you that this is exactly what the Oilers do and while normally I am not a fan of copying any idea that the Edmonton Oilers seemed to have come up with (especially recently with their roster) the idea of retiring a number of a player named to the hall of fame is as great as any in sport.
Wayne Gretzky is inducted to the HoF in '99? Boom, his #99 is officially retired by the Oilers that same year. Jari Kurri called in 2001? Number 17 retired by the Oil that same year.
Grant Fuhr... Paul Coffey... Mark Messier... Glen Anderson.., All of them get named to the Hockey Hall of Fame and each of them within a year of being inducted see their jersey numbers raised to the rafters of Rexall Place with some of the best retirement ceremonies in all of sports. Heck, even hall of fame Oilers broadcaster Rod Phillips has a banner of his own up there beside the players.
Really Messier's number could have been retired the same year he retired himself in 2004 and no one would have thought anything strange by it. Same goes with Fuhr who retired in 2000 but had to wait until 2003, or Anderson who retired in 1997 but had to wait until 2008 for his HoF bid and number retirement. The Oilers could have done something the following fall they retired, but they waited until the Hall of Fame spoke first.
It's a beautiful system and honestly if a sport's recognized hall of fame thinks a player is good enough to honor with their version of a 'lifetime achievement award' then certainly the least the franchise where said player left his biggest mark can do the same by raising his number to the rafters for all fans to see.
And it's not like this has to be an iron clad rule that if you wore a star in Dallas at some point in your career and get a HoF nod, that your number should be hung up for good. Jacques Plante and Norm Ullman are in the Hall of Fame and they did in fact spent time with the Oilers, but both did so during the twilight of their careers so thanks, but the Oil will pass.
No need to go all Colorado Avalanche here and retire the jersey of players who put in a little over a year's work with the club and happen to be right place at the right time. Right?
Now take all those 'rules' and apply them to the Dallas Stars.
Why shouldn't Ed Belfour's number 20 be hung up or Joe Nieuwendyk's number 25 be raised? Nieuwendyk was maybe the most clutch playoff player the Stars ever dressed (Conn Smythe himself says so) and Belfour was the team's starting goalie for that cup year and a rock for many of the other seasons he was here.
Hall of Fame member Brett Hull? We may be a little behind on this one but while his time in Dallas was maybe a little too short for our liking, he only scored the biggest goal (yes it was Buffalo) in franchise history. Heck, throw everyone a curveball and retire the number 22 he wore that 1999 season just so we can be a little bit different from St. Louis.
Mike Modano will be a shoo-in for the hall (once he does retire) and should be a shoo-in to have his number lifted up.
Sergei Zubov? I know there has always been some debate on wither or not the Stars should honor him someday and what better way to 'settle' that debate on one simple rule? If he makes the HoF, #56 is honored. If there is no call, then well we remember Zubie with fondness but 56 is still open game for he who would dare to wear it.
See how easy this is?
North Stars legends like Dino Ciccarelli, Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy? Sorry, but it's Dallas now and while none of us have a problem honoring Bill Goldsworthy and Bill Masterton as well as Neil Broten for his combined work with Minnesota and Dallas, I think we can all agree that three from the Minnesota past is more than enough. Let the Wild honor them if they so feel inclined...
This whole thing can go on for longer than you probably care to read and we can list off more names, but I think by now you all get the idea. And sure this grandiose plan may have to wait until a new owner gets handed the keys to the shop (err.. arena) but if he's reading this (and honestly why wouldn't he?) what better way to kick off the new ownership era than a proper honoring of past Stars legends that we fans obviously still have a fondness for. In reality, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if Stars fans tendency to look back at the past rather than look forward to the future is because the club has never properly recognized that past the way a lot of other NHL teams do which is maybe one more reason to hate on Tom Hicks... he never seemed to truly understand that fans always want to honor and remember past glory and thus never really did.
It's time to change that and soon. As mentioned, Joe and Eddie's inductions give the team a perfect excuse to do just that.