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The Beginning of a Journey

Signing of Hull gives Dallas upper hand

Tuesday, 09.9.2008 / 12:00 PM CT / Feature
By Bob Matuszak
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The Beginning of a Journey

This season marks the 10-year anniversary of the Dallas Stars’ first Stanley Cup championship. What follows is the first of seven installments that delves into that magical 1998-99 campaign, from training camp all the way to Brett Hull's Cup-clinching goal in triple-overtime in Game 6 in Buffalo.

As the clock wound down on the Dallas Stars in their Game 6 Western Conference finals loss to the Detroit Red Wings, owner Tom Hicks was already making plans to meet with team president Jim Lites and general manager Bob Gainey. It may have been a memorable playoff run, but it was certainly unfulfilling for a Stars team that fell a series short of their ultimate goal.

Bob Gainey
After a promising season in which Dallas earned the President's Trophy for the best regular season record, the Stars dreams of winning the Stanley Cup vanished in the bowels of Joe Louis Arena in June 1998. Determined to erase the bitter taste in the organization's mouth, the front office immediately went to work, looking to improve upon a club that already boasted a strong mix of youthful energy and veteran leadership.

The '97-98 Stars team, under the guidance of bench jockey Ken Hitchcock, made its mark by playing back-breaking defense. It was commonplace for that bunch to allow 15 shots on goalie Ed Belfour while mustering just enough offense to win a low-scoring and tight-checking affair. Against the Red Wings, the Stars quickly found out that sometimes your best defense is a good offense.

Dallas' power play was sickly in the '98 postseason, converting on just 1-of-30 man advantage opportunities against the Red Wings. So with Hitchcock's defensive-minded system firmly in place, Hicks and Co. were determined to get some more "O" that was lacking at "The Joe."

Coincidentally, there just so happened to be one of the most explosive goal scorers available when the free agent market opened less than a month later.

Follow The Golden-Brett Road
As the free agent feeding frenzy began on July 1, St. Louis forward Brett Hull was a highly sought after commodity. After turning down the Blues $15 million contract offer in March because it didn't include a no-trade clause, Hull's name shot straight to the top of the wish list for many teams in the NHL. One of those clubs was the Dallas Stars.

After being acquired from Calgary by the Blues at the end of the 1988 season, Hull had become the most prolific scorer in the league. The six-time All Star scored an amazing 228 goals in a three-year span that began in 1989, and had already accumulated 554 goals and 433 assists in 801 career games. The soon-to-be 34-year-old was an asset waiting to be had.

It was widely speculated that the Stars weren't interested in doling out big dollars for the outspoken Hull, who was perceived around the league to be a selfish and one-dimensional player that wouldn't fit in the team-oriented mold the Stars had created under Gainey and his Montreal Canadiens roots.

But on Thursday, July 3, Hicks shocked the hockey world by signing Hull to a three-year, $17 million contract that included the no-trade clause the sniper dearly wanted.

"A few weeks ago, we decided Brett would be our No. 1 priority free agent," Hicks said. "We thought he'd be interested in coming here because we think we have a chance to win the Stanley Cup."


"When you first break into the league, you want to establish yourself as a player, financially, building a home, a foundation and a future," Hull said. "Then the main thing is to be a champion. I've always wanted to do that. I wanted to do that in St. Louis, but I'm not in St. Louis anymore. When Dallas called, I thought they were as close to anybody to winning the Stanley Cup. It's a great honor they want me to be a part of that."

Added Gainey: "He provides added depth, and his abilities, skills, experiences and passion to play on a successful team will help us."

With Hull delivered, the Stars instantly became a top favorite to dethrone the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings. Gainey, though, knew his summer job was still a work in process.

NEXT: Part II of this first installment on 1998-99 -- More key signings, Training Camp and the Regular Season Begins




1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70


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J. Spezza 13 5 8 0 13
C. Eakin 13 1 7 -4 8
A. Goligoski 13 4 3 -6 7
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P. Eaves 9 3 3 3 6
R. Faksa 13 3 2 2 5
M. Janmark 12 2 3 -3 5
C. Sceviour 11 2 3 1 5
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