My story of being in the “Jersey off a player’s back” end of the year celebration, and seeing my hero work his magic for possibly the last time:
So as I put up on my last post, I was called the other afternoon and informed that I had been one of the fans choosen to take part in the “Jersey off a player’s back” contest/ceremony at the end of the season where the players give their jerseys to a fan right at the end of the last home game and sign it and take a couple pictures with the lucky fan.
So we get to will-call last night not knowing where the tickets I won were for. Turns out they were one section over from where I was about to buy tickets. So we have seats in section 103, and get in just as the game starts. The game moves pretty quickly early on as both the Stars and Ducks keep the game moving and neither team is taking penalties. During each of the stops and TV timeouts, the fans keep getting treated to video clips of thank you messages from the Stars and then old videos of Modano, Lehtinen and Turco. Of course last night was probably Lehtinen and Modano’s last game in front of the Dallas crowd as both contemplate retirement. And it is widely known because of finances and management’s trade for Kari Lehtonen, that Turco will not be here next year. So throughout the night fans are cheering and screaming, showing tons of support for each of the three longtime Stars.
So of course the Ducks score first and the fans are getting edgy. But then late in the 2nd period Modano and Lehtinen set-up the loved rookie Jamie Benn and the house went crazy. Lehtinen and Modano both got huge rounds of cheering when it was announced. So we head to the 3rd period with a 1-1 game with the packed crowd very involved and active. Well during the second intermission I realize that a couple of the people around me in 103 are some of the other winners. I won off of the team website, there was another winner off the Stars twitter (which you should always follow), a couple of winners from other ways and they were letting fans text in and a couple would be chosen last second that way. So the game keeps moving through the 3rd period, and we all talk and confirm what all of us were told which was to meet at section 109 with about 10 minutes left in the game.
So we start making our way towards where we were all told to meet, and we start getting checked in by the reps. We start to make our way down to the ice level and they line us up in a certain order. Of course we all know then that this has something to do with which player we get, but no one knows who gets who still. About this time we are down by the entrance to the ice, and are watching as Modano comes on and says thanks to the fans. Immediately the whole AAC is standing, cheering, and screaming for Mo. We all watch as it shows Modano on the big screens, and he starts to tear up on the bench. It was an amazing moment, as the officials and players all showed respect to and for about 5 minutes everyone was showing how much he has meant to this city and team. I am of course tearing up a bit myself, and look around just to make sure no one else is watching. Out of the reps, workers and other contest winners, I notice about 75% of them are trying to hold back tears to. It was one of those pure, personal sports moments between so many fans who love him, and the player who has been a hero and favorite to so many. Then with the Stars down 2-1 late, Modano gets a strange, up high deflection to drop down and ties the game. That was probably the loudest and craziest I have seen the crowd ever in the AAC. It was like the game was scripted. So we head into overtime and then into the shootout, everyone just hoping Mo can find a way to win it. After both teams’ first shooter is stopped, Modano skates out and takes his chance with the crowd again so loud I could not hear Bill (the Stars Announcer). AND MODANO SCORES!!!!! Turco makes another save to cap a great last performance by him, and then Lehtinen scores to end it 2-0 in the shootout and 3-2 overall! Perfect story-book ending for each of the players being honored!
All during this time we are down by the glass watching, holding our breaths, and screaming. As they roll out the carpet and the players start giving their jerseys to each fan that was selected to be paired with them, I start to figure out my spot in the order. The Stars were keeping the three guys that were being celebrated for the last three. So I think my player by my count is going to be Skrastins. Not a horrible player, but not at all who I want. So as I walk the carpet next to the Ice Girls and make my way out onto the ice I am preparing to be met by a player I do not really want. But as I hear my name called out, they announce that I am paired with Larsen. Philip Larsen, for those unknown to him, is the Stars top prospect who had just come up and this was his first career game. So he shakes my hand, gives me the jersey and signs it. I go back and think, cool that is better. Someday if Larsen pans out this could be worth a lot, and I may have just got the first ever jersey by the Stars next big thing.
But as I get back one of the reps I know, Ryan, walks up to me. Ryan was my rep when I had season tickets, and I still talk to him every now and then when getting tickets. He says that with this being Larsen’s first career game, Larsen actually really wanted to keep the jersey for him and his family. He said Philip would be love to have the jersey back. Ryan lets me know that he can get me one from another player I want, and maybe a small gift too for being willing to give it back. So I think about it for a second and tell him that is okay and that I understand. Then I tell Ryan if there is any way possible it would be a life-long dream come true to get a jersey signed from Modano. He says he will try but can not guarantee it because it is Mo and all the things going on around him this week. So as my second pick as say Richards as a back-up because I have followed him since he was in Tampa and he is my 2nd favorite guy right now. Ryan gives me his card and says he will do the best he can, and should be able to get one from Richards if not from Modano.
So in the end, I will most likely end up with one of the two I want, and I will have another part of this whole story to tell!