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.