In March of 2014 we faithful saw Modano’s number hung in the rafter during a tear-filled retirement ceremony – not a dry eye in the house! There are those of us, though who believe it was only the start to what this organization owes to it’s history. On the heels of hearing Bob Sturm talking about Zubov deserving the rafters and ESPN talking about him deserving the Hall of Fame, we want you to have a way to show your support and ask the organization to make it right – let’s get Zubov and Lehtinen up in the rafters, LEHTS #MAKEITRIGHT!
Tag Archive for Jere Lehtinen
It was the morning of April 8th, 2010. It wasn’t a particularly special day for me. I had had classes at Texas Tech at 9 AM that morning. I got up, got on Facebook while was eating breakfast and noticed that that night was the last home game for the Stars for the 09-10 season. I got out of class and was walking back to my apartment. It was about 11:00 AM. I hadn’t been following the Stars much that season, so it took a while for it to hit me… that night could potentially be Modano’s last home game in Dallas. As I was walking, it became more and more apparently to me how important this was.
I texted my friend who lived in a few hours away in Midland to see if he wanted to go. He was down, so I called the box office to see if any tickets were still available. Luckily, since it was fan appreciation night, I was able to get a pair for about $18 each. I grabbed my Modano jersey and hopped in my car. I drove two hours to Midland to pick my buddy up, then we drove the 5 hours to Dallas. I hadn’t been to a Stars game in probably 5 years since my dad moved from Dallas to Denver. I also had never driven in a big city. Luckily, we made it to the game without getting lost (thank goodness for GPS).
We found our seats in the second row from the top on the offensive end. The Stars came out to practice. It was then that I saw all the fans signs on the glass and I realized that this could be Lehtinen and Turco’s last games in a Stars jersey as well. The first period came and went, but I knew eventually something big would happen. That moment came in the second period, as Modano thanked the fans during a commercial break right before a Duck powerplay. The fans got louder and louder. I think the vast majority of fans looked exactly how Modano did…tears streaming. Seconds later, the Ducks scored on the powerplay, and I had a few choice words for them. Third period came and we were down by a goal. The story book turned its next page as Modano redirected a puck in to tie up the game. OT came and went. Onto the shootout. Turco was perfect, Lehtinen scored, and Modano scored one of the most beautiful shootout attempts I had seen. The crowd went absolutely nuts, and wasn’t quiet until Modano skated off the ice for the final time about 15 minutes later.
When we walked out, it was a bit bittersweet. Every woman’s make up was smeared and every mans eyes were red. We all had just witnessed one of the greatest moments in Stars history, a story book ending that 99% of players don’t get for their last game…but that was exactly it, it was his last game as a Dallas Stars.
I haven’t worn my Modano jersey since. In fact, I consider that game Mike Modano’s last hockey game in Dallas. To me, he retired after the last Stars game in Minnesota a few nights later.
Over the years, I’ve had – we’ve had – many glorious moments with the Dallas Stars. It’s rather hard not to when you have to travel over 18 hours non stop (which, by the way, is impossible due to layovers) to get from where I live to Dallas. It’s approximately 8323 miles (13394 kilometers for those of us who use metrics) between where we live and our beloved Stars. We’ve had to do things the hard way to gain access to them. Back in 2006, I would call my husband, Sam, who worked from home at the time, on my lunch break and he would put the phone by the speaker of his computer so I could listen to Ralph & Razor call the game over WBAP’s internet stream. There was no such thing as Game Centre Live in those days.
So when Mike Modano resigned for his final contract in 2005/06, we saved up everything we could and booked flights for our 2 week trip to Dallas – our pilgrimage to our home of hockey. During those two weeks, we had some amazing experiences. Riding the pine while the Zambonis cleaned the ice in the second intermission and then locker room tour during the third period of a Blackhawks game. Meeting our friends from the Stars forum and hanging out, talking hockey and becoming lifelong friends. Going to practices and having Jason Arnott shoot a slapshot at the glass behind Turco where I was standing, then crack up laughing with Philippe Boucher when I flinched and then gave them both the finger. Marty just shook his head at their antics.
Even talking to Steve Ott, Johan Hedberg, and then rookie Jussi Jokinen – who I gave a small koala to – were just amazing experiences for us. I’m sure Sam will post his own story about meeting his own hero, Jere Lehtinen – I’ll leave that story for him.
But my greatest memory will always be when I met my hero. Now, some people haven’t had the greatest experience with him, but I can only go by my personal experience – for which I am eternally grateful was so beyond my wildest dreams… I could never thank him enough for being so gracious and kind. Nothing I say now could capture the excitement and joy I had back then, so I’ll give you the words I wrote the night after I met… Mike Modano:
So last night at the game, Ralph Strangis said to find him at practice and he’d see if he could set us up to see Mike Modano. I was looking around for Ralph most of the morning but we couldn’t see him. Practice started and we went in to watch it. We got some great photos, taken by Sam, and Amber and I went to the end of the rink to watch the guys practice.
After a while, and talking to a few people around the edge of the rink, I saw Ralph come out of the Stars locker room and I waved at him. He nodded and walked over, calling out “Hey, it’s the Aussies!” and pronouncing the S like an S… I grinned and said, “Auzzie mate, Auzzie.” And he laughed and said, “Nah, I like it as Aussie.” I replied, “Okay, but only you’re allowed to say it that way!”
He told me he’d been trying to hook us up with Mike, but he wasn’t sure if they’d be able to do it because Mike had a commercial to shoot today and he was a little cranky about a few things Ralph asked him to sign for something – I think a celebrity Auction. Anyway Ralph called Rob, the Senior Director Hockey Communications for the Dallas Stars, over. We said to Ralph, “He’d be called ‘Bluey’ back home because he has red hair!” so now Rob has been christened ‘Bluey’. Anyway Rob was great to us. He said it wouldn’t be a problem to hook us up with Mike and he’d be fine about it all. We chatted away and then he said he’d come and get us when they were ready to film the commercial and we could meet Mike afterwards.
It didn’t take too long before Rob called us over and we followed him down a corridor through the stands in the rink area. Sam forgot the camera so he ran back and got it. While he was gone, Mike – flanked by some other guys from the production company – walked right past me. I couldnt’ stop smiling – or shaking. Anyway Sam came back and we waited with Rob in the hallway – chatting about how we became hockey fans and everything. I think Rob could see I was shaking because he said, “Now you know he’s a regular guy, right? He puts his pants on the same way as everyone else – one leg at a time.”
I grinned and said, “I know! I’m fine.” And I was. I was shaking because I was partly cold. Have I mentioned it’s FREEZING in Dallas right now? Anyway Mike was done pretty quick with the commercial – he must have got it right the first or second time, and I think it meant he was done for the day so when he came out, he seemed pretty happy.
Anyway Rob said, “Mike, this is Wendy and Sam. They’re the two Australian fans who have come to see the Stars.” And Mike shook my hand with a grin and said it was nice to meet us, and then said, “Really? All the way from Australia?” And I nodded and said “Yeah.” We went on to explain we don’t get the games on tv over there, we get them mailed to us on DVD and that we listen to Ralph and Razor on WBAP and NHL radio, and I said, “And you guys play when I’m at work, so I call Sam on my lunch break and he puts the phone by the speaker so I can listen to the call of the game!”
Mike was a little surprised by that but he laughed too. I liked making him laugh. He seemed to be enthralled talking to us, which was great. Rob said “She’s been a fan for 13 years.”
Mike asked, “Really? How’d you get into the Stars?”
I blushed and said, “Uh, actually it was all because of you.”
He, of course, was like, “Uh, what?”
And Rob said, “She saw The Mighty Ducks.” Mike…god bless him, he blushed so bad and looked at the ground and shook his head with a grin, saying “Oh no!” I laughed and grabbed his arm lightly. He looked down at me – because he towers over me (I’m 5″6, he’s 6″3 in bare feet!).
I said, “No, it wasn’t like that!” And Sam went on to explain that I saw him playing first, not the talking part.
I clarified and said, “Wait… the thing was… the first part I saw was the NHL part where you were flying up the ice, with your jersey billowing in the wind scorin’ that goal and I was like, ‘… Wow, who’s that? #9? That’s it I’m gone.’ And since 9 is my number… I’ve been hooked ever since. I had to rewind it to see the rest of it!”
He nodded and said, “Oh, that’s so nice.” He asked how long we were here for and I said until April 1st and he asked where we were staying and I said studio 6 on I35 and Northwest Hwy. He nodded and then I said, “Yeah, we know it’s the “cultural part” of Dallas!” and he laughed so I think he knows the area is full of strip joints! Yes, we picked the prime part of Dallas to stay!
Anyway he happily signed my jersey that I was wearing, and then I asked him to sign my Jokinen jersey that I’m getting the whole team to sign. I fumbled with the pen because I got him to sign in silver on the 6 and said “Sorry, I’m being a pain in the butt.” He was so sweet, and said, “No, no, it’s okay!”
After he signed it, I said, “We actually have something for you.”
He looked really surprised and said “Really? Oh okay.”
I dug around in the bag and got out his silver keying and as I gave it to him, I said, “Everyone has to have an Australian key ring.” He grinned, I think he liked it a lot because Sam took a photo of Mike looking at the key ring with a wonderful smile on his face. He said thank you, which was nice and then I said, “And we also have this… this is… in Australia, our city has had a hockey team in the national league since last year. SO… we got you one of their jerseys!”
I handed it to him, and he looked at it and his grin was so big. I think he really liked it, but it could have just been Mike being polite. I added, “And it’s got your name and number on the back.”
He turned it around and he was like “Oh wow! This is so great! Thank you so much!” We said he was welcome, and he posed for a photo with me holding up his jersey. He put his arm around my shoulders, and I put my arm around his waist – he’s so small width wise – I mean, he’s tall, and he’s solid, but wow, he’s tiny. He was very, very sweet to us and seriously he was just so much more than I ever expected. He’s a wonderful man, and though I doubt he’ll ever see this site, I just want to say thank you Mike for being a gentleman, a good sport and a wonderful role model. I didn’t get to say all that I wanted to, but that’s okay. I was able to spend a few minutes with you and I know how busy you are, so to generously give a few minutes of your time to someone who has travelled such a long way to see you play just meant the world to me.
I said to him, “Good assist last night by the way,” and he smiled and said, “Well, thank you very much.” I added, “It was a shame you guys didn’t win on Monday night,” and he was like, “Um, yeah, well uh… you know,” and I continued on, “But you know what? It was still the best game of hockey we’ve ever seen!” He laughed. I also said thank you for beating the Kings (he laughed), and that we were in the air flying from LA to Dallas at the time of when they were playing, and Sam told him I was cheering them on in the plane, which of course made me blush but Mike laughed and said something but I can’t remember what it was.
Mike also said that he hoped we had a great trip and that he might see us again and we said thanks and he left. I’ve been on cloud nine ever since. Rob didn’t have any business cards on him at the time after Mike left so he said to wait and he’d run and get one since we gave him one of our on the cheap ones that we made this morning – got some business cards and a rubber stamp that you can change the words on – worked out pretty well. When Rob came back, he said that Mike really enjoyed talking to us. I was a little skeptical but he said that Mike loved the jersey, that when he was walking back to the locker room, he was holding it up and saying, “Wow, this is amazing! This is great!” So I’m really glad he liked it. It was something I wanted to give him, just for no other reason than the Stars have hosted us, and it’s Australian custom to give your hosts a gift of some sort to say thank you.
For some hockey is a sport they are born into. In many places, especially far north of Texas, it is a part of the culture and environment just like football is here. For some it simply is a growing appreciation and love for a sport that isn’t for the weak. For me personally I grew to love and follow our beloved (and sometimes hated) Dallas Stars with the growth of the team and winning in the 90s. I can remember watching games at old Reunion Arena. I remember being selected to be a Dr. Pepper Stick Kid for a night in November 1998 and getting a unique experience as a kid that lasted for years. But it is a more recent experience as an adult that solidified my love of the sport that probably is my favorite memory.
The spring of 2010 was a weird time for fans rooting for the boys in black. It was obvious the team was getting close to a changing of the guard but they were still competing for a playoff spot (as they have done the last few years). Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, and Marty Turco were all aging and it started to feel more apparent that this might be their last push as the town favorites. The afternoon before the Stars’ final home game against the Anaheim Ducks started something that I will remember for likely the rest of my life.
I was in downtown Ft. Worth actually, appearing for a jury duty summoning. While I wasn’t picked during the first patch, I was informed we had to stick around for at least the day to see if anything changed. But we were all released for lunch and I had a couple of hours to walk around downtown and get lost. So after a while walking around and getting a simple bite to eat at a BBQ joint, I ended up in Barnes & Nobles flipping through magazines and books when I received a call. Yearly the Stars do a contest for fan appreciation night where fans win the jerseys right off players backs on the ice after the game. Well I got the call and was in. I had no idea how (they have multiple ways to enter, most do all) or who I would get; I just knew I was being given tickets to a game I was already trying to buy tickets to and would get to experience something special.
The game comes and starts, really all as a blur. My girlfriend at the time and myself had great seats in 103 (away from where I normally sat with the Stars Fanatics half the time), but to me the game went by fast. By the second intermission the Star and Ducks were still locked in a tight 1-1 game after Modano and Lehtinen set-up the loved rookie Jamie Benn. But I was rushing down to meet the other winners and walk down into the underbelly of the arena. We start to make our way down to the ice level and they line us up in a certain order. Of course we all knew then that this had something to do with which player we would be paired with, but no one knew who yet.
About this time we were down by the entrance to the ice for the Zambonis, watching as Modano came on to the big screens and gave thanks to the fans. Immediately the whole AAC is standing, cheering, and screaming for Mo. We all watch as it cuts Modano on the big screens, and he starts to tear up on the bench. It was an amazing moment, as the officials and players all showed respect to and for about 5 minutes everyone was showing how much he has meant to this city and team. I am of course tearing up a bit myself, and look around just to make sure no one else is watching. Out of the reps, workers, and other contest winners, I noticed about 75% of them were trying to hold back tears to. It was one of those pure moments. An arena full of fans, friends, and players all cheering and showing respect to someone who was bigger than the stats he put up over the years.
Then with the Stars down 2-1 late, Modano gets a strange, up-high deflection to drop down and tie the game. That was probably the loudest and craziest I have ever seen the AAC. It was like the game was scripted. So they journeyed into overtime and then into the shootout, everyone just hoping Mo can find a way to win it. After both teams’ first shooters were stopped, Modano skated out and again the crowd was so loud I could not hear Bill Ollerman as he announced Mike’s name. Of course he pockets the goal and the crowd just went insane. Turco makes another save to cap a great last performance by him, and then Lehtinen scores to end it 2-0 in the shootout and win it 3-2 overall! The perfect story-book ending for each of the players being honored!
As the crowd finally settles down, we take the ice to get our chances on-by-one to meet our player and receive the jerseys. As they roll out the carpet and the players start giving their jerseys to each fan that was selected to be paired with them, I start to figure out my spot in the order. The Stars were keeping the three guys that were being celebrated for the last three. So I think my player by my count is going to be Skrastins. So as I walk the carpet next to the Ice Girls and make my way onto the ice, I am preparing to be met by one player. But as my name echoes, they announce that I am paired with Larsen. Philip Larsen, the kid after his first NHL game. So he shakes my hand, gives me the jersey, we chat for a moment and he signs it. A nice moment getting to meet a promising prospect.
But as I get back to the side of the ice one of the reps I know, Ryan, walks up to me. He informed me that with this being Larsen’s first career game, Larsen actually really wanted to keep the jersey for his family. He said Philip would be love to have the jersey back. Ryan told me that he could get me one from another player I might want, and maybe a small gift too for being willing to give it back. So I think about it for a second and tell him that is okay and that I understand. A month or two later I was rewarded with a jersey Modano wore that night signed as apparently he ran through over a half a dozen jerseys that night for the occasion.
But the lasting memory actual came next. We all watched in a powerful and emotional moment as Modano took the ice last. Taking the ice crying and waving at the fans, things just stood still. In a night that was special and emotional, things became even more unique. Everyone was not only on their feet, but 19,000 plus people were all emotional as well. It was something that I’ve never felt since. A pure sports moment where a legend said goodbye, but a fanbase also poured out their love for someone who made the game special to so many. And in the middle of all of it, I stood there with a few tears slowly rolling down. For better or worse, no matter what, that night solidified my love for something to many that is just a game.