DallasStars.com continued it's retrospective of the 1999 Stanley Cup run today by taking a look at the fourth and final game of their series against the Edmonton Oilers. Most fans will remember it as the game that lasted nearly three full overtimes before a Sergei Zubov point shot was deflected in by Joe Nieuwendyk for the GWG. At the time it was the longest game in franchise history and was a fitting metaphor for just how competitive and tight games always were between the two now familiar rivals. In the end it was yet one step on the road to the ultimate prize.
But to me personally it means so much more than that.
It was the night I truly fell in love with the Dallas Stars.
Being a Stars / North Stars fan in the heart of Oil Country had always been a bit of a task. We Stars fans had 1991 and a near miss with a Cup while Edmonton fans had five Stanley Cups. Not to mention the specter of 1997 was still something Oiler fans were all too happy to hang over Stars fans even if Dallas was the best in the regular season in 98-99 and looked every part a juggernaut of a team.
Even going into game four the mood around Edmonton was one of impending defeat, but still had this faint hope that maybe the Oilers had a miracle comeback in them. Fans had reason to believe because of the two goals taken away from the Oil in their game three loss. At the very least Oilers fans figured the home boys wouldn't go down without a helluva fight...
It was my first NHL playoff game and honestly even I wasn't expecting to see a win against the Oilers. Sure the Stars took the first three games, but a sweep? Just didn't seem possible even if this Stars team had a championship feel to it.
I packed a small broom with me to wave around just in case...
Tommy Salo easily had his best game of the series in game four and the Oilers had plenty of great chances to win in OT and looked even better than they had in game three. As each OT passed Oiler fans around me believed more and more that even if this wasn't a series they'd win, it at least be a game they'd win and thus the crowds energy level even into the third overtime period didn't fade as much as you'd think it would for a game that was creeping into one in the morning territory.
And then Zubov and Nieuwy together put a well placed dagger into the heart of the Oilers and their fans.
As I left the arena that night / morning with a smile that was permanently etched on my face for a solid week, it almost felt like the Stars had just won the Stanley Cup instead of just inching their way closer. Thousands of people filing out with me were filled with quiet as they had just saw the death of a good friend. Myself and a small handful of other Stars fans that had found each other in the arena concourse partied like the Cup from that point on was a foregone conclusion.
Before April 27 1999 I was a very solid Stars fan. In the early hours of April 28 1999 as the Stars were shaking the hands of their defeated foes, I became a lifetime commited diehard Stars fan living in the middle of Oil Country.