It was November 15, 2011 and there were maybe 3,600 die-hard fannies in the stands at the 18,500 seat American Airlines Center. Inclement weather was part of the equation, but truth be told, back then, on a perfect day, the Stars were drawing well below 10,000. The atmosphere was that of an airport terminal gate an hour and a half prior to boarding time - quiet, emotionally detached, and with lots of room to spread out. By games end that atmosphere was more funereal, and the population far more sparse as the Stars whimpered toward a 6-0 pasting at the hands of the Florida Panthers.
Was that rock bottom at home? If it wasn't, March 16, 2013 undoubtedly was.
That was the night the young, brash Chicago Blackhawks came to town and administered an 8-1 shellacking to the Stars - a score that actually flattered the home team. The beat down unfolded in front of a rare packed house, and with the new owner in town. Ugh.
It took the Hawks all of about 11 minutes to leave the Stars flailing in their wake that night. They held intermission leads of 3-0 and 6-0, and had the Stars outclassed, discombobulated ...rattled at every turn. It was a clinic, and showed both how far away the top actually is and how far from being near that the Stars franchise was. The dummying the Blackhawks delivered was the second time they'd rolled into Big D and clobbered the boys. They outshot the Stars 40-23 and 34-19 in the two tilts and appeared to actually take their foot off the gas in both.
Rock bottom on the road was likely April 3, 2013 at the Honda Center in Anaheim. (Truth be told, from a broadcast perspective, ANY game emanating out of that antiquated edifice in the OC scrapes the bottom a bit.)
That was a day after the purge of Jagr to Boston (Yes, I know, that did yield Jason Dickinson, so not all bad) and coupled with a few other trades, the Stars ended up dressing what would be no more than an elite AHL lineup. Lane McDermid and Alex Chiasson made their NHL debuts.
Getzlaf dominated. The Stars didn't manage to get even one charity power play in the game. Just to underscore how messed up the team was, Loui Eriksson started at center, Tom Wandell (a center) was scratched, and they didn't have an extra defenseman with them despite 12 healthy ones under contract in the AHL .When they pulled the goalie (Lehtonen) for the extra attacker, to try to tie a two-goal deficit, the plan of attack appeared as organized as hippies at a love-in. They lost 5-2, after getting pasted 4-0 at home in the previous game by those same Ducks. Next day the coach cancelled practice and took them to the beach...
Our broadcast was equally inept, I'm sure. (On the technical side, for sure... )
Fast-forward to April 9, 2016.
Saturday night the 2015-16 Dallas Stars wrapped up one of the most successful seasons in franchise history. Their 50 wins and 109 points earned them the Central Division crown and the best record in the Western Conference. League-wide they were bettered only by the Washington Capitals - a team they defeated in both head to head clashes during this spectacular season.
The franchise had gone from "My god, what happened in Big D?" to "My god, look what's happening in Big D!"
A lot of good people left for other opportunities during those lean years and who could blame them, the future around here looked about as bright as the matte black finish on a few of the then overpaid and mediocre "Stars" cars. Geoff Moore, the first ever employee of the Dallas Stars, went to open wheel racing in Austin. Colin Faulkner trekked north to join the Chicago Cubs, and so on.
Other people (many of them over their heads in the qualification department) arrived to fill gaps. Still, others came to strip payroll, and...empty the building.
It was painful.
The Stars had become all but irrelevant in the market. Not a real shocker when considering that the marketing budget had been cut by 25% each of the previous three seasons. (Doesn't take an MIT grad to figure out that one more season of that and there is no marketing budget.)
And those cobbled together rosters back then didn't help push ticket sales and advertising sales either.
But I had a steely belief that the glory days of the late 90s and early 2000s could be recreated in Dallas, if only the franchise could be rescued from NHL bill paying (which is what the NHL did, and should be greatly commended for). Rescued by the right person. A passionate, hockeycentric man preferably. And that he would hire some terrific people who had experience - you know, "a few lines under the eyes" - with some local knowledge and a drive to get the Stars back on the rails and powering up the grade again.
Fifty-three months after writing the big check and rebuilding the front office, Tom Gaglardi is the owner of the best team in the Central Division, best team in the West, and a club that played to 99.1% of capacity at AAC this season.
You can tap the brakes on a "Mission Accomplished" banner going up with the Central sheet but wow, that's a pretty incredible ascent - or "rising" as is preferred by Stars "branding" - and all this has made the (**talking in the 3rd person alert** ) Razorboy a very happy boy.
A healthy run in the postseason would paint a perma-grin on my mug.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Daryl Reaugh's posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars.