March 17, 2007
Gaylord Entertainment Center
For most of the 2006-07 season, the Dallas Stars fans and organization had been counting down the goals until Mike Modano reached Joe Mullen's American-born goal scoring record of 502.
Modano entered the season 17 goals shy of that number, and considering he'd scored 27 goals and added 50 assists the year before, most expected he would break the record some time around the middle of the season.
But he wasn't at the doorstep until March of that year, and he sat just one goal shy of the mark as the Stars tried to extend a four-game winning streak at the home of the Nashville Predators. Although the Stars would eventually fall 3-2, Modano scored both goals (both on the power play) to tie, then break Mullen's record and sit alone atop the American-born goal scorers list.
This game would end up on our list for his accomplishment alone. But as this highlight of those two goals shows, there was a lot more to that game than just Modano's record.
Hear that slightly somber tone in Ralph and Razor's call for the record-breaking goal? If you don't remember what happened, follow the jump for the incident that was almost as memorable as Modano's big night.That record-breaking goal occurred almost immediately after an ugly incident that left a scar on that game which involved Modano, Jordin Tootoo and Stephane Robidas.
Tootoo, filling his agitator role to a tee, took a pretty large run at Modano with three minutes left in the third period and the Stars down by two goals. As happens pretty frequently with runs at marquee players, his nearest, in this case Robidas, came over to probably start a shoving match with Tootoo. It may have eventually developed into a fight, but given that it was Robidas and he was coming in with his gloves on and hands chest high, it wasn't going to be a flat-out jumping from behind.
That, apparently, didn't cross Tootoo's mind.
Tootoo received a double-minor for roughing and was suspended five games for the incident, while Robidas, who was given a minor for charging despite only making contact with Tootoo's fist, left the game on a stretcher. He eventually missed the next seven games with a concussion.
"I take full responsibility for my actions and accept the consequences," said Tootoo. "I maintain my actions were taken in self-defense. I am sorry to see another player get injured and I wish Robidas well in his recovery."
Robidas said he was blindsided by the punch.
"There's different ways to see it, I guess, but what I remember is I went in and had my stick down and my gloves on," Robidas told the Dallas Morning News. "If I go in and try to jump him, that's my fault. But I'm just going in there to let him know, 'Hey, you don't hit Modano like that, and if you want to go, we'll go.' That's all I was doing. I wasn't going to jump him, but then, boom."
Modano also slashed Tootoo across the mid-back with his stick after Tootoo sucker-punched Robidas, which caused Tootoo to take a wild stick swing back at Modano that missed. Neither were particularly dangerous, and neither received any extra discipline, much to the chagrin of a vocal minority fans who had called for Modano's head. Should Modano have been penalized two minutes for slashing? Probably. But Tootoo should have probably also been tossed from the game.
You can see the call of Modano's second goal here from the Preds crew, and note how the crowd thinks Modano should have been in the box as well. The Stars crew, meanwhile, thought Tootoo should have been straight-up tossed or given the rare-but-applicable one-person major for fighting.
That wasn't the end of the controversy surrounding this game, either. The Stars were none too pleased with how the Predators handled, or didn't handle, Modano breaking the goal-scoring record. Perhaps because of how close the record-breaking goal happened to the aforementioned Tootoo-Robidas incident, the Predators organization did not acknowledge the significance of Modano's two goals during the game over the public address system.
"Their owner, management, public relations people, coaching staff -- I think they all failed the game," Lites told the Dallas Morning News. "It's because of people like Mike Modano that they even have a team in Nashville. He has helped pioneer the game in the South, and for him to be treated like that in a milestone moment ... it's just a horrible thing."
Lites' disdain for the Nashville organization wasn't just limited to the events surrounding Modano's record.
"I understand it's a competitive situation, but we're also working together to sell the game," Lites told the paper. "They get more money from revenue sharing than any team in the league, they voted against the new schedule because they wanted to have an easier schedule for themselves. They take and take and take and take and never give back, and I'm sick of it."
Looking back, I kind of can't believe he went there. But given the general sense of anger to come out of that game, despite Modano's accomplishment, it does fit the timbre of the rest of that night.
To be fair to the Stars, they had acknowledged the very large accomplishments of players on other teams. Jeremy Roenick comes to mind immediately, and I seem to recall Patrick Roy getting recognized for something at well. And other teams honored Modano at other large milestones on his chase for all the American records, such as the San Jose Sharks announcing when he broke the American-born points record. So I can understand why the Stars were very annoyed that Modano's accomplishment was ignored. I'm just a little surprised at how brutal Lites was in his analysis.
But given how this game played out, I guess I'm not surprised the animosity spilled over to the front office side. And the strong emotions brought up by this game, from the celebration of Modano's record to the fear at seeing Robidas unconscious on the ice to the anger at Tootoo's sucker punch, make this easily one of the most memorable games of the Stars first two decades in Dallas.