Bob Gainey was the architect of the Dallas Stars 1999 Stanley Cup championship team. And he is still building in the Dallas area, helping pave the way to a brighter future for some local high school students through the Bob Gainey Scholarship Fund.
And now that scholarship fund, which has been in place since 2003, is expanding from one $5,000 scholarship to two $10,000 scholarships, which are paid out over four years. The Gainey Foundation and the Dallas Stars Foundation both upped their commitments to the fund.
"It came up higher on my priority list because I have been kept abreast of who the recipients were year by year," Gainey said. "The Gainey Foundation will be ten-years-old in May of this year, and we've been looking for new and different people to partner with, to make a difference with, either big or small. The scholarship as it stood was losing a little bit of momentum, so it was time to refresh the scholarship that is a good opportunity for a student and now maybe two. The fact that it is in my name, I'd like it to be something that the students, who qualify for it, have a good chance for their education to move the right direction."
The scholarship fund was established to honor Gainey's service on the Dallas Stars Foundation Board of Directors during his time with the team. The scholarships are awarded to a student-athlete who possesses "a strong work ethic and high integrity, qualities espoused by the Dallas Stars and exhibited by Mr. Gainey throughout his National Hockey League career." And students have to meet certain requirements to maintain the scholarship.
"The criteria the Stars have in place sets the bar high, but it's not out of reach," said Gainey.
Helping people reach goals is the goal of the Gainey Foundation, which was established in 2008 to honor both Gainey's daughter Laura, who died in a sailing accident in 2006, and his wife, Cathy, who died of cancer in 1995. Initially, the foundation focused on the arts and environment.
"Those were areas, in [Laura's] age group, that were important, so we pinpointed our purpose there, arts and environment," Gainey said. "And with our tenth anniversary coming up, our family has had discussions about different possibilities. Our family has changed. The wonderful thing that the foundation can do is participate in someone else's life in a positive way and allow them to break through or get through an obstacle, get the results they want and have a successful outcome."
Gainey had plenty of success in his hockey career, both as a player and in a management role. He won five Stanley Cups as a player with the Montreal Canadiens and an NHL-record four Selke Trophies as the league's top defensive forward. Gainey, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the 1978 playoffs, was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1992 and was recently named as one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players as part of the league's centennial celebration.
He took over as head coach of the Minnesota North Stars in 1990 and then became GM in 1992 and continued in those two posts when the team moved to Dallas in 1993. He gave up the coaching duties in 1996, bringing in Ken Hitchcock to be the bench boss, and Gainey and Hitchcock were driving forces as the Stars began to build towards a Stanley Cup.
"He was our rock," said Stars President Jim Lites. "He brought Ken Hitchcock in [to coach] at the right time, and they formed a great partnership that led to winning a Stanley Cup here. You need that partnership between the GM and coach, I believe."
There were Gainey's player moves as well, bringing in Sergei Zubov, Joe Nieuwendyk, Darryl Sydor, Ed Belfour, and Brett Hull along with former Canadiens Guy Carbonneau, Mike Keane, and Brian Skrudland. They joined homegrown players Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, Derian Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk on a Dallas roster that put together the best record in the league that season and defeated Edmonton, St. Louis, Colorado, and Buffalo in the playoffs.
"They were built over a couple of years," Gainey said of that championship team. "When that 1998-99 team began, we won our opening game and remained in first place all the way through the season and then to finally march through the playoffs and win the Cup, that was a championship team, and that is the label that team deserves. They played like champions from the middle of September until June. They never looked up once. They had their eye on the prize and stayed right with it."
And there was the Gainey influence, said Craig Ludwig, who was a part of that championship team. Ludwig has a unique perspective on Gainey, having played with him in Montreal and then under him when Gainey was both the coach and GM of the Stars.
"I mean this sincerely, he is really like a Scotty Bowman to me," Ludwig said, referring to the legendary NHL coach. "I just respect the way [Gainey] went about his business."
Whether it was sitting on the postgame flight with a couple of beers going over the penalty kill, setting an example in a practice or finding ways to get players on the same page, Gainey was all about team.
"He found creative, subtle ways to get points across," Ludwig said. "When I came into the locker room after warm-ups one game, there was a little Post-It that said, 'A little solidarity goes a long way.' I had no clue what that meant, but when I talked to him later, he said, 'We've got a couple of guys wearing helmets in warm-ups. Can you get them to take them off?' He wanted it to be about team.
"There was a time he was coaching, and he said that every whistle, in between faceoffs, I want all five of our guys on one spot on the ice. I don't care if you are saying anything or not, we are sending a message to the other team that all five of us are together. We are all on the same page."
It was the kind of leadership Gainey brought to the Canadiens as team captain and what he brought in a management role with the Stars.
"He was all about his players, his teammates and getting them going in the right direction," said Ludwig.
It worked with the Stars, who won it all in 1999 and made it back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2000. That was a great run for the Stars and great one for Gainey as well, and it's a reason he is still involved in the Dallas community through the Bob Gainey Scholarship Fund.
"We had a great time in Dallas over ten years," said Gainey, who served as GM until 2002. "From a career standpoint, from a lifestyle point of view, I had children who went to school in school systems there. We remain in contact and friendly with a number of people. The Stars are still my team in the West."
For more information on the Bob Gainey Honorary Scholarship Fund, please click here.
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.