Dallas Stars’ Assistant Coach Rick Wilson Quietly Shaped The Franchise

Returning as assistant coach of the Dallas Stars, Rick Wilson has had a lasting impact on the club for over 30 years.

As the Dallas Stars form their newest coaching staff in the wake of firing Lindy Ruff and subsequently replacing the four-year Stars head coach with Ken Hitchcock, they have looked to and brought back some familiar faces in Big D. Hitchcock, himself a former Dallas head coach, will be assisted by Stu Barnes and Rick Wilson.

Barnes, who suited up for the Dallas Stars in five seasons during the mid-2000s, was a fan favorite as a player and a highly intelligent three-zone forward. He will be returning to the position he held for three years with Dallas from 2009 to 2011 under Marc Crawford. Wilson, who previously spent 16 seasons with the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise, will be tasked with fixing an awry penalty kill.

Hitchcock is a very defensively-structured, disciplinary coach. The former Stanley Cup champion has undoubtedly put the correct pieces around him to get the most out of his players, especially with a team as skilled as the Dallas Stars are. Everything should run smooth.

Rick Wilson, 66, has a reputation for helping the Dallas Stars become contenders. Wilson inadvertently, and in the weirdest way, shaped the franchise as we know it, but not while serving as assistant coach. Wilson, a native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, was at the helm of the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders in 1986 when he made a massive proposal to a player we all know and love: 16-year-old Livonia, Michigan native Mike Modano.

Modano had been ripping the MNHL, a midget league in Michigan, to shreds as part of the late Mike Ilitch’s Detroit Little Caesers AAA Club. Stats for this league are next to impossible to find, but according to hockey-reference.com, Modano totaled 66 goals and 65 assists in just 69 games of action in 1985-86. At the time, Modano was heralded as one of the best skaters in the game and perhaps the most sought-after American junior to date.

Modano went to Prince Albert and excelled under Wilson, as the now Hockey Hall of Fame inductee scored 189 points in 139 games at just 16 and 17 years old. As the story goes, Modano went on to be drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1988 National Hockey League Entry Draft, where he eventually found himself in his stomping grounds of 17 NHL seasons: Dallas, Texas.

Had Modano not been recruited by Wilson, the highest-scoring American-born player in NHL history would perhaps fail to be exactly that. While Modano was a generational talent in his own respect, being showcased at Prince Albert helped his case with the North Stars for the #1 pick in the Draft (Minnesota was berated for taking Modano over the second pick, Trevor Linden of Vancouver).

In addition, as Modano became the face of the sport of hockey in Texas, it’s safe to say that not having a talented, fresh-faced American like the NHL 100 member was, hockey in Dallas would not have succeeded nearly as well as it did. Cedar Park, where the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars play, probably winds up sans a pro hockey club because there would exist no state-wide hockey support.

Mike Modano became the face of hockey and the greatest Dallas Stars player to ever suit up in green, black, and white. But, give our new assistant coach some credit here: Rick Wilson accidentally brought 25 years of successful hockey and a memorable run with Modano to the City of Dallas.

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