What a difference a few months can make.
It wasn’t that long ago that many Stars fans ( including myself ) were ready to strangle Joe Nieuwendyk for announcing that he would not be re-signing Mike Modano. The team had just come off it’s second straight year of missing the playoffs and now we had to deal with seeing our icon get pushed out, then go on to sport another uniform after 22 years with the North Stars/Stars franchise.
That’s something that I never imagined I would have to deal with up until that point. I never anticipated it would ever happen. I don’t think any of us did.
Many emails I know were sent to Mr. Nieuwendyk in both attempt to change his mind, and to let him know our displeasure with him. He was public enemy number one.
Though I will admit that my creed was that if he could turn this team into a winner again, I could forgive him.
While I knew deep down that Mike Modano’s absence wouldn’t necessarily be a detriment to the Stars on ice performance, and at the same time, his presence would not mean another Stanley Cup title, I was still upset. After all, he deserved the respect that guys like Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic had been given by their respective franchises. The freedom to decide their own future.
But Joe Nieuwendyk was more focused on what he felt was best for the franchise and it’s future, especially given the current circumstances the Stars were facing. With no identity, leadership questions, and no money to spend, hard decisions had to be made and a new direction was needed.
So now with Mike Modano and Marty Turco being pushed aside and Jere Lehtinen retiring, it was up to the team we had to pick up the pieces and put this thing back together. Of course new comers Kari Lehtonen, Andrew Raycroft, and Adam Burish were expected to help. Most would not consider those guys difference makers, but they’ve proven to be just that. Not single handedly, but they’ve helped breathe new life into the roster and twenty guys moving in the same direction is much more of a force than any roster you could put together with no real direction or identity at all.
So here we are in late January still with no owner, no money, no Mike Modano, no Marty Turco, and Jere Lehtinen retired, yet the Stars have led the Pacific division for the past two months and are among the top five teams in the entire NHL. Joe Nieuwendyk even did something unimaginable earlier this month and actually ADDED a player. Jamie Langenbrunner has returned and that tells not only us fans, but perhaps most importantly the players, that there’s belief in this team.
My sister Allison and I attended the Stars game the other night in Edmonton and we stayed in our seats for a good fifteen to twenty minutes after the final buzzer to let the crowd move out ahead of us. Allison then spotted Joe Nieuwendyk coming down the stairs exiting the catwalk where various media types, radio announcers, and team affiliates sit to watch the game high above Rexall ice. We headed on over, okay we ran on over to greet him. But not with displeasure. Not at all.
I called his name, ” Mr. Nieuwendyk !”, he turned to acknowledge me, ” As a Stars fan, I just want to thank you for getting the team in the right direction and you’re doing a great job so far. So thank you.” , shaking his hand in the process. He seemed very appreciative and he shook my sister’s hand as she thanked him too. The smile on his face told me that he gives a damn and he is truly focused on everything that matters the most: the Stars and us fans. And we are very fortunate to have him.
What a difference a few months can make indeed.
About the Author
Written by Travis Currie
Im your typical sports fan. Just a little more crazy about it. I live and die for my teams and I drive my girlfriend nuts. I consider myself the world's biggest Stars fan. Ive been a fan since I was a young kid going back to the mid 80's. Favourite Stars player of all-time is of course Mike Modano. Favourite non-Stars player of all-time is Peter Stastny. I love talking sports so please leave a reply to anything you agree or disagree with. If youd like to contact me my email is firstname.lastname@example.org