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50 Forgotten Stories: Surprise All-Stars

by Sheng Peng @Sheng_Peng / LAKings.com

Both Mario Lessard and Jaroslav Modry spent more time talking about their teammates than their own All-Star experiences.

Lessard, who entered the 1981 All-Star Game at the Forum leading the NHL with 27 wins, remembers, "I was happy to be there with [my teammates], Taylor, Dionne, and Simmer at the same time. And it was in LA!"

Lessard is one of just four Kings goalies to play in an All-Star Game. You might have heard of the other three: Jonathan Quick, Rogie Vachon, and Terry Sawchuk.

"Everything went well. Everything clicked," recalls Modry of his 2002 All-Star turn at Staples Center. At the break, he was second among league defensemen with 28 assists. "My teammates, my team, and my coaching staff, everybody was a big part of it."

Neither counted their one-hit All-Star appearances as a top career highlight either.

Lessard cited a sole individual achievement -- his first NHL appearance, a 6-0 shutout of the Buffalo Sabres in 1978 -- but followed with "The Miracle on Manchester" and the subsequent elimination of the Edmonton Oilers as his proudest Kings memories.

"It's just one of those things you achieve and mark off on your [checklist] and you just move along. It was an honor," acknowledges Modry. "But the ultimate goal was winning with the team."

Pressed, however, both would reveal an individual All-Star memory that has stuck with them through the years.

"When they called out my name for the All-Star Game, that big standing ovation. I couldn't believe it myself," laughs Lessard. "I was shy. I didn't know what to do."

For Modry, "The best moment of the All-Star Game was just after the game, everything was said and done, sitting down in the locker room with my Dad and my boy [Jacob]. Just sitting around with those [great] players and soaking it all in."

Modry was very close to his father, who flew in from the Czech Republic to share the moment. Defenseman Jacob Modry, now 18, has committed to playing at RPI this fall.

 

 

Avoiding Deadmarsh

Speaking of winning with the team...

Has Modry ever jumped higher with skates on than when he beat Patrick Roy in overtime to win Game One of the 2001 Western Conference Semi-Finals?

"Probably not. Probably not," laughs Modry.

A second later, Modry ate ice, as a hard-charging Adam Deadmarsh, doing his best impression of a cheetah taking down an antelope, blindsided him.

"I tried to jump away from Adam Deadmarsh," jokes the 6'2" blueliner. "I had no chance to get away from him. He was a physical guy. He wouldn't let me get away."

Not surprisingly, the overtime hero was quick to credit another teammate for his goal, "It was just another great play by Jozef Stumpel.

"He made a phenomenal play on the half wall. He sold a shot. And he just passed it across, put it in the right spot for me to one-time it."

 

65 Saves

On March 24, 1981, the Minnesota North Stars buried Lessard with 68 shots. At the time, only three teams in NHL history had ever exceeded that total in a game.

The North Stars also lost 4-3.

"Sixty-eight shots. We had 68 shots and lost," forward Steve Christoff muttered after the game. "Sixty-eight shots...and they had 19. I just can't believe this."

"Mario Lessard -- I don't have to say anything else," said Kings coach Bob Berry.

His counterpart Glen Sonmor offered, "I can't recall ever seeing a performance like that before." (Oklobzija. Kevin. "Kings' goalie leaves Stars befuddled." St. Cloud Times, March 25, 1981.)

Lessard's 65 saves are still a Los Angeles single-game record.

The 1980-81 Kings were actually a strong team -- they finished with the Wales Conference's second-best record. So what happened?

"That was a bad night for the guys," shrugs Lessard, "that's all."

He doesn't remember much from his ordeal, chuckling, "They were in my zone all the time. I didn't have that much time to think about it."

The game tape is actually the only one the goaltender owns. Teammate Andre St. Laurent's girlfriend, who had recorded it, gave it to him as a gift.

"I watch it once in a while."

 

Better Than Any Bonus

"My heart just sank," acknowledged Jodi Modry, when her husband received a surprise call from Kings General Manager Dave Taylor in January 2002.

"I thought, 'We're traded.' Dave Taylor's reasons for calling are, 'You've been sent down,' or, 'You're traded.'"

Actually, Taylor was just letting Modry know that he had made the World All-Star team.

"It just never crossed our mind, never, ever, that we'd ever be here," she admitted. Modry didn't even have an All-Star bonus clause in his contract.

"Everyone is like, 'Everyone just has [a bonus clause]. It's standard.'"

But the 30-year-old, who had spent as much time in the minors as he had in the NHL, felt richer nonetheless. He enjoyed his moment in the sun, telling Jerry Crowe of the Los Angeles Times, "All those years I spent in the minors, it was like putting money in the bank. Now it's time to make a withdrawal."

To this day, the surprise All-Star swears, "Sitting next to guys who were the best of the NHL, of the world...to celebrate the game with them, alongside with them...in front of the fans of Los Angeles...

"It was really special. The feeling was unique. It was better than any kind of bonus."

 

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Sheng Peng is a freelance hockey writer based out of Los Angeles, California. He covers the LA Kings and Ontario Reign for HockeyBuzz. His work has also appeared on VICE Sports, The Hockey News, and SB Nation's Jewels from the Crown.

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