Tag Archive for 1998 playoffs

1998 Western Conference Finals – The Greatest Game I Ever Missed

by Matt Day
This is Part 3 of a three part series about the 1998 Playoffs and
“The Best Game I Ever Missed”. See below for Parts 1 and 2.


The Western Conference Finals were here and as excited as I was there was little I care to remember about this series. It was here that the loss of Joe Nieuwendyk was noticed the most. The Stars could not match up with the Red Wings high-powered offense. They split the first two in Dallas which ended my face painting streak. The Stars then lost the next two in Detroit and the future looked bleak. We would need to be as loud and as supportive as we could when the game came back to Dallas for game 5. That is when I got the news I didn’t want to hear and it would leave me with a tough decision to make.

At the time I worked for very small electronics company that installed computer monitoring systems for computer rooms. I had spent most of my time there in house, building the equipment and designing the computer graphics. Our field technicians had gotten in over their heads and our contract with a major telecommunications company and perhaps the business itself were in jeopardy if I did not fly to Crystal Lake, New Jersey and get things under control. It was tough but I gave my sister my ticket to game five. I had hopes that I could get things under control and be back by Wednesday night, but deep in my heart I knew this would not be the case. My true hope was that they could extend the series so that I would be back for at least one more game.

On the road we had to work 7pm – 9am so that we would not interfere with our customer’s normal business. Monday and Tuesday I worked harder than I had ever done before. I got more accomplished in those two nights than the other two field technicians did in a month. When I think about it that hard work probably backfired on me as I was made to do more traveling later and miss more games. Wednesday came and I had to go back to work before the game even started. As productive as I had been the first two days I had become just the opposite that night. It had become obvious to the plant manager who had been impressed with my work the two days previous. He decided to take us out for a dinner break and asked me where I’d like to go. I said, “I don’t care where we go as long as they are showing the Stars game.” That was difficult because everyone was showing the Bulls and Jazz play in the NBA finals. Three bars later we find just the place.

My eyes were glued to the TV, only looking away at commercial breaks. However, the Red Wings were dominating and the Stars weren’t getting any breaks. It was a slow and methodical game that became depressing. It was also late and we had to go back to work with the Stars trailing 2-1. With my head down I headed back to the car and we went back to work. I spent the night in the backup power room wiring our equipment into the emergency generators. The union electricians had a radio, but would not turn it from the basketball game. It was 3am I was tired and depressed knowing for sure the Stars season was over and I wasn’t there for my team when they needed me most. Eventually, the electricians and their radio returned and to my area and they were listening to sports talk. Again it was all about the Bulls and Jazz. Then I heard these words during a sports update. “There was a thriller in Dallas, we’ll discuss when we return.” My jaw dropped, I began to tear up, and I couldn’t breathe. Then the voices in my head began to argue. “Could it be? Did we come back?” “Stop it! Don’t get your hopes up, you were just coming to terms with the end of the season. Don’t make yourself go through it again.” “Damn you, you radio tease!”

It was the good news I had hoped for. I screamed and did a victory dance and lap around the building. I know it was very professional of me. Guy Carbonneau scored in the closing moments of the third period to send it to overtime. Then Jamie Langenbrunner caught Chris Osgood by surprise with a shot from the blue line to win the game and send us to game six. We lost game six and the Red Wings went on to win the Cup. I was happy in the sense that the series was extend, but now I’d have to face the fact that I gave up tickets to the greatest game in Dallas Stars history. Well at least to that point. It was the greatest game I ever missed.


Yes, it was only a game, but it wasn’t till later that I realized it represented much more. In the offseason we received our season ticket holder renewal package that had a picture of the Stars celebration after that Red Wings game with the title, “It’s not enough.” I framed the photo and hung it on the wall in my workout room. Its message is a great motivational tool to keep me working hard and not to settle for anything less than my goals. However, the background of my experience gives it an extra meaning. I became a workaholic and did everything for my job. This photo is also a reminder to never let my hard work and goals interfere with the present and my ability to enjoy the journey.

The 1998 Playoffs – Conference Semi-finals

by Matt Day
This is Part 2 of a three part series about the 1998 Playoffs and “The Best Game I Ever Missed”. See below for Part 1 and watch for Part 3 to come on April 12th, 2013.

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The Edmonton Oilers shocked the Stars in seven games in 1997. This would be my chance to finally shake off those feelings from that series. A 3-1 victory was just what I needed to calm my nerves just a bit, but I knew this series was far from over.

Game two brought an act of defiance on my part for I was going to prove superstition wrong. Confident in my Stars I defiantly refused to paint my face. Those who follow superstition enslave themselves to coincidence. I was determined not to let this be my fate. I rolled the dice and lost as my team could not even get one, past Curtis Joseph in a 2-0 loss. After that game I was made to promise that I would not go another playoff game without my war paint.

We returned the favor in-game 3 in a 1-0 shutout in Edmonton. Game four brought another hockey experience that added another dimension to the game. The Stars announced that at the Stars Center in Euless there would be a game watching party. There we would be able to cheer on our Stars when they were on the road. This was a pivotal game and we could use the support of fellow fans like us.

The experience of a crowded room full of strangers, feeling the same intense emotions as me was intoxicating. I couldn’t get enough. The score and momentum went back and forth all game long. We went through every imaginable emotion during that game. When the game ended in a 3-2 Stars victory the room had gone from crowded to cozy and there wasn’t a stranger in the room. You meet your hockey friends at games or online, but at watching parties your Stars friends become Stars family. That is where you truly get to know each other and that was the lesson I was beginning to learn. The next game was just as close as the rest and just as intense as the Stars closed out the Oilers at home. I was finally able to see a series won in person and to be on the happy side of the handshaking ceremony. If you want to be the best you have to beat the best. Up next the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

The 1998 Playoffs – Conference Quarter-finals

by Matt Day
This is Part 1 of a three part series about the 1998 Playoffs and “The Best Game I Ever Missed”. Watch for Parts 2 to come on April 9th and 12th, 2013.


1998 Stanley Cup Playoffs - Photo Credit SportsLogos.net

1998 Stanley Cup Playoffs – Photo Credit SportsLogos.net

After finishing second in points in 1997 the Stars were upset in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers. Determined not to let this happen again the Stars made big news signing free agent Ed Belfour in the offseason. Struggling early in the season with his new defense Belfour finally got into the groove and lead the team to its first President’s trophy and the team’s best record ever, to that point. The playoffs were here again and first on his plate was Eddie’s last team, the San Jose Sharks.

The San Jose Sharks went all out at the trade deadline in 1997 to get Belfour from the Blackhawks in hopes they could work out a deal to resign him. It did not work out and this was their chance for payback with their new goaltender and playoff MVP from last season, Mike Vernon. The payback however did not involve the men between the pipes.

The last season had taught me that with all the excitement that went with playoff hockey also came moments of extreme bitterness. The previous year was my first as a season ticket holder and being upset in the first round had taught me such bitterness. I was 0-4 in playoff games because all four losses in that series were at home. I was eager to end that streak and to taste playoff victory for the first time.

I did not take long for this series to get ugly. Bryan Marchment of the Sharks, who was known for his cheap shots on the other teams key players went to work and may have prevented the Stars from skating the Cup a year early. Marchment took out Joe Nieuwendyk’s right knee and forcing him out of the game. This was only game one of the playoffs and even though the Stars dominated the game in a 4-1 win the victory was bitter-sweet. All my thoughts were on if and when Joe could return. Nieuwendyk was the Stars leading scorer for the season and a huge loss for the team.  Our worries were confirmed when we learned that he had suffered a torn ACL and would be out for the season. The Stars went on to dominate game two as well and you couldn’t help but think this series was over. Someone forgot to inform the Sharks of that though as they took the next two in San Jose to tie the series.

Game five in Dallas again was a nail bitter as the Stars escaped a close one with a 3-2 win. I was living and dying with every shift. Every goal for or against was leaving me on emotional highs or lows. Game six was in San Jose and we really needed to end it there because I was not ready for another game seven. It was another close one and when San Jose forced overtime I could only think, “Oh no, here we go again!” I would have been devastated had the Sharks scored and sent us to another game 7 in Dallas. Another chance to watch my team exit early in round one again would have been too much to bear. Trade deadline acquisition Mike Keane eliminated my fears and the Sharks with his overtime game winner. Injuries to Nieuwendyk and Jere Lehtinen crippled the Stars, but it did not keep them from winning the series in 6.

The Sharks provided a few firsts for me in hockey. My first ever Stars game I went to was a victory against the Sharks in 1995. My first playoff win and series win as a season ticket holder came this series as well as one more first. A tradition was born that series. To celebrate the playoffs my cousin and I wanted to try something different. We noticed a booth outside Reunion Arena that offered free face painting and so both of us had our faces painted all three games of the series. It was fun and we didn’t really think anything of it until a fellow season ticket holder informed us of an interesting coincidence. Having already painted up our superstitious friend had thanked us and pointed out that our personal records were 0-4 without face paint and the Stars were 3-0 when we dawned the war paint. Round one was tough but over it was now time for some revenge in round two.

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