NHL SB Nation sites around the network join EA Sports today in celebrating the 20 year anniversary of its classic "NHL 94" release, considered to be one of the most classic sports video games of all time.
20 years ago upon the release of NHL 94 when Sonic the Hedgehog was all the rage and some of your friends had still not yet completed their journey with Super Mario through Dinosaur Island to save the princess again, some of you weren't even alive.
The Dallas Stars themselves were just a couple of months old.
Norm Green's controversial relocation of the Stars' franchise saw hockey born in Texas (beyond a smattering of pre-existing minor league franchises) and unknown to all but a few believers, the seeds of a Stanley Cup victory five years down the road were planted.
Mike Modano was there. Jere Lehtinen had been drafted. Derian Hatcher was emerging. Richard Matvichuk was entering the lineup on occasion. Craig Ludwig was present and accounted for.
The pillars of the Cup winning team were starting to coalesce.
Two decades later the Stars find themselves in a situation as similar to that rebirth and hope as they could possible dream of. They re-enter the Central Division as the Dallas Stars, as they did then. They have new uniforms and branding. They have a renewed financial situation. They have the young superstar, around whom they believe they can build.
They have a huge market of unbelievers to convert. Again. With Jim Lites heading up the effort, luckily. Again. Enormous potential exists to get eyeballs on the television, dollars buying jerseys and butts in the seats. The way to do it now is the way they did it then. They won.
In that first year in Dallas Mike Modano scored 50 goals. They finished with 97 points, good for third in the division, and went on to defeat the Blues in the first round of the playoffs.
Can Jamie Benn pot 50? Can they get to 97 points? Third in the division, with the inra-divisional format giving them a matchup with St. Louis once more? Talk about history repeating itself...It's not a far-fetched possibility.
Whether they can duplicate that first year of success in this season, the year of their true rebirth under Tom Gaglardi, remains to be seen. Looking back, however, still provides a poignant reminder of how hard it is to get to the promised land- of how many steps still need to be taken.
In the 1993-1994 Dallas Stars' future was the acquiring of Sergei Zubov. The trade for Joe Nieuwednyk. The trade for Darryl Sydor. The signing of Ed Belfour and Brett Hull, and all the other pieces that made up a pretty perfect puzzle.
Russ Courtnall, Dave Gagner and Ulf Dahlen led the team in scoring behind Modano, as might Ray Whitney, Erik Cole and Sergei Gonchar this year. The youth back then learned how to win with those veterans, though they weren't here to see the eventual top of the mountain.
So too must the youth now - Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin (who knows a thing or two about that already...) Alex Chiasson, Cody Eakin, Brenden Dillon, Valeri Nichushkin, etc - learn to win. First round playoff experience would go a long way on that front.
Learning how to win is a long process. Just ask the San Jose Sharks (of whom Ray Whitney was a member back then...), who I used to enjoy dominating in NHL 94. Take that, Pat Falloon.
Video games are a bit, ahem, fancier these days, but building a good hockey team is just as difficult.