It doesn’t seem like 25 years ago, but the Stars will celebrate the silver anniversary of their only Stanley Cup on Wednesday and Thursday.

Dallas beat Buffalo in Game 6 in overtime (54:51) when Brett Hull scored to clinch a 2-1 victory at about 1:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

“It’s the 19th and 20th,” said center Mike Modano of the anniversary stretching over two days. “That’s what kind of game it was.”


And while some players have passed 60, the Cup is a bit of a fountain of youth.

“It’s amazing how fast it goes by,” said Hull. “It seems like just yesterday.”

The memories of the Cup are great for a lot of reasons. One, GM Bob Gainey put together a fantastic team that now has six players in the Hockey Hall of Fame and stands as one of the more memorable in league history. Two, it was an interesting group that had to weather a gauntlet of opponents that included Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek. And three, it was the first Stanley Cup for players like Hull and Modano.


Hull was known as a high-scoring winger who never won “the big one,” so scoring the game-winning goal was huge in his career. But he said helping Modano get his championship was just as important.

“Honestly, to me, I was so happy for a guy like Mike,” Hull said. “He was such a big part of what that franchise did from Minnesota and then in Dallas. He sacrificed being possibly one of the greatest offensive players of all time to play within the system that Bob Gainey and Ken Hitchcock wanted. He sacrificed to play in a very conservative system and he still put up incredible numbers. So for him to get the accomplishment of winning a Stanley Cup and showing that his sacrifice was worth it, that to me was the greatest part of that goal.”


“That goal” still is controversial. With the score tied 1-1, Hull found himself in front of Hasek attempting to deflect a shot in. Hasek stopped the initial shot, Hull took control of the rebound, kicked it to his stick and scored the game-winner from right in front to end the marathon match. In 1999, the league had a rule that a player’s skate could not be in the crease on a goal, and Buffalo felt Hull’s skate was indeed illegally in the crease. But Hull had gained possession of the puck, rotated his skates out of the crease and then stepped in after he had possession of the rebound.

The league declared it was a good goal, and the Stars had their Cup.

“If you ask anyone in Buffalo, they’ll say no goal. If you ask anyone in Dallas, they’ll say goal,” said defenseman Craig Ludwig as he remembered the controversy. “I mean, the fact they changed the rule the very next year tells you it was a bad rule in the first place. Twenty-five years later, it kind of doesn’t really matter anymore.”

Modano said he relives the memory every year about this time.

“You always flash back to that particular moment when you’re watching the playoffs right now,” Modano said. “You see the impact on players who haven’t won it, and you understand the wave of emotions they’re feeling. It’s an amazing memory. It will live forever.”

The 1999 team was a lesson in roster building. The Minnesota North Stars moved to Texas in 1993 and Gainey was both coach and GM at the time. Owner Norman Green hired Red Wings executive Jim Lites to help establish the franchise in a new city, and the new management group had to dig in to forge an infrastructure for the business and a roster that could win games, and that meant a lot of challenges in the process.

Green ended up selling the team to Dallas businessman Tom Hicks in 1995, and that started the fast track to the Cup. Gainey made a series of moves that occurred because of the new financial footing, and the Hockey Hall of Famer seemed to push all the right buttons. Gainey added Joe Nieuwendyk in a trade with the Calgary Flames in December of 1995. He added Darryl Sydor in a trade with the Kings in February of 1996. He traded for Sergei Zubov in June of 1996 and then signed Pat Verbeek and Dave Reid that summer. All of that coincided with naming Ken Hitchcock head coach, and the Stars started a run of five division championships in a row. Gainey added goalie Ed Belfour in 1997 and Hull in 1998, and the build was complete.


Among the other additions throughout were Guy Carbonneau, Mike Keane, Shawn Chambers, Brian Skrudland, Tony Hrkac and Brent Severyn. Lites said Hicks’ ownership made that possible.

“I give Tom Hicks so much credit,” Lites said. “It took everyone. You look at people like Bob Gainey, Ken Hitchcock, Rick Wilson, Doug Jarvis, they were all huge. The players, everyone. But I was there, and I understand how money made such a big difference, and when Tom Hicks came in, it changed everything. That allowed Bob to do his job, and everything changed.”

Hitchcock said not only did Gainey get the players, but he also gave direction and support to his rookie head coach. Both Wilson and Jarvis were veteran assistant coaches who had played with Gainey in Montreal, and they were also huge in guiding Hitchcock. The Stars lost in the first round in 1997 and in the third round in 1998, but that provided fuel and experience.

“I think having gone through it once or twice, you realize how patient you have to be and how resilient you have to be, and you understand that you have to go back and re-check the boxes every time,” Hitchcock said. “I look back at the experience I had with Rick and Doug and Bob, and without that experience, I would have dealt with games in a different manner. But because those guys had experience in winning, they gave me a different formula. At the end of the day, that formula worked.”

Modano said he now understands the importance in the style of play and how crucial it was that everyone made sacrifices.

“I do look back at the changes Bob made and how much we had to grow. It all came together that year. It was something we really had to earn,” Modano said. “We all kind of knew what we had, so we were all committed to Hitch’s style, and to one another, to find a way to make this thing work.”

While the team posted the best record in the NHL during the regular season, it still had to beat Colorado in seven games and then had to go to triple overtime to finally end the series against the Sabres. Several players had injuries, including Hull, and that made the Game 6 victory even more magical.

“At the end, we were all banged up. I’m not sure if we could have won Game 7 with all the injured players,” Hull said. “I do look at that and think it might have been a kind of destiny thing.”

1999 Stanley Cup Champions

Now, it definitely is a milepost in the history of the franchise. While the Stars were among the best teams in the NHL for seven seasons, they have just one Cup to show for it. They returned to the Final in 2000 and 2020 but lost both times. So how important is the 1999 season?

“It was a big thing for all of us to be the first team to bring a Stanley Cup to Dallas. We’re all very proud of that,” Hull said. “Individually, it was validation for me. I remember Mike Keenan saying, `You’ll never win with Brett Hull,’ and that was a great feeling to finally win it. It was a huge relief for me.”

Hitchcock said he has stronger memories of the series against St. Louis and Colorado than he does the Buffalo series, but he knows the importance of finally clinching the championship.

“I just remember how hard it was to get through the West. It could be a bounce either way,” Hitchcock said. “That helped us a ton. There were so many great teams in the West, and I think we helped make each other better.”

And it also goes to Hitchcock’s philosophy that it was about the journey and not the destination. That said, they only hold anniversaries of destination days.

“It was a great time: the town, the energy at Reunion. It was just so much fun,” Modano said of his memories. “It puts an exclamation point on your career. Everybody is graded and I think it always fulfills a big part of what you want to accomplish in your career.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.