In the early to mid-1990s, the Dallas Cowboys were solidifying their nickname of “America’s Team” by ringing off three dynastic Super Bowls and dominating the NFL. With the iconic triplets, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, and Emmitt Smith headlining a star-studded roster the nickname had truly stuck from its 1978 origins.
Eventually, this success, coupled with Jerry Jones’ business savvy, would propel them to where they are now as the Forbes List’s Most Valuable franchise in the world at $8 billion. Just as this team’s success was starting to peak, another Star in Dallas was being born.
The Dallas Stars, as we know them now, played their first game on October 5th, 1993 against the Detroit Red Wings. After moving from Minnesota, the Mecca of American hockey, the team flew under the radar in their move as the former star of Dallas was shining quite a bit brighter at the time.
As the team’s popularity grew, the fan base borrowed the parallel concepts of competitive physicality that the football field shares with the rink. Similarly, the Stars borrowed from American Hockey history while paving their path in North Texas. Mike Modano used this inaugural season in Dallas to set the record for points at 93.
America’s Team: Deep in the heart of Texas
Modano planted the Texas flag at center ice of the game by registering 50 goals with those 93 points, two longstanding Stars records. Additionally, two historical American figures came south with Modano in Neal Broten & Derian Hatcher. While Broten spent less than 100 games in Dallas, across 3 seasons and two stints, he brought valuable experience from Minnesota unrivaled in the lore of sports underdog stories.
Broten was part of the “Miracle on Ice” team that defeated the Russians in the 1980 Olympics, bringing a respite from the Cold War in an avenue that Americans had not seen. Highlighting the magnitude of this cultural anomaly, only 3 players with solely American citizenship were inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame between 1945 and 2000, but 11 have been inducted since.
Along with this gold medal and 796 career points, Broten served as an emblem of America’s hockey past when he scored the team’s first goal in Dallas. The future rested on the shoulders of Modano, the team’s second scorer that same night, and team captain Derian Hatcher.
As Barry Switzer rode the shell of Jimmy Johnson’s team to a single Super Bowl and subsequent crash & burn, a contingency of Cowboys fans flocked to Reunion Arena to see the tone Hatcher was setting.
A physically imposing brand of hockey, similar to what they had experienced watching the Cowboys, was being employed by the captain and trickled down to each line like Reaganomics. The team dominated the ice en route to a Stanley Cup in 1999, the first in NHL history to be captained by an American.
America’s Team: A Star is born
From Broten to Modano to Hatcher, American Hockey history is interwoven into the Texan fabric of Dallas Stars hockey. Further, it’s quite poetic that Modano’s 3-decade record would be broken by budding American Superstar Jason Robertson. Born one month and three days after Hatcher lifted the cup with his American paws, Robo has completed 200 games, surpassed 100 goals, and paced at a point per game in his young career.
Hailing from Southern California and American-Filipino descent, Robertson’s humble demeanor and consistent playing style serve as the underlying heartbeat of the team. Additionally, he fits the mold of hockey’s modern era of superstars by occasionally breaking a game as he did in Tempe over the weekend or against Nashville last night. Little did he know that he would be leading an “America’s Team” trio at the age of 23.
Now with the first 100-point season in Dallas Stars history, Robo’s replication of Modano’s stardom is an indicator of this team’s parallels with its own history. The Stars find themselves in playoff pushes consistently with a team now built to open its cup-winning window within 18 months.
In addition to elite prospects graduating to the pro level, the Stars have their Broten and Hatcher. The Broten-like role of elder American statesman is occupied by Robo’s linemate Joe Pavelski. At 38 years old and with almost 1250 games of experience, Pavelski’s skilled leadership compliments Robo’s top talent and guides the aforementioned heartbeat that drives this squad.
As the game has changed, the defensive tone set by Hatcher is now mirrored by yet another American in Jake Oettinger. Otter completes the modern American trio that embodies the core of the team’s historical roots. Every now and then the man between the pipes has to stand on his head similar to how we saw him shine in their lone showdown with Calgary last year.
Bringing this year’s regular season to a close with another reputable campaign, Otter has shown that backstopping the defense with skill, personality, and soft-spoken consistency is vital to winning. With 30+ wins in back-to-back seasons, the Stars netminder anchors the 2023 triplets to encompass all 200 feet.
America’s Team: Best trio since the Red, White, & Blue
While mirroring the past, the “America’s Team” trio has also shown its capacity to put the team first. Each of them has taken team-friendly deals to accommodate for building the surrounding components and compensating everyone evenly. Gearing up for the optimal Cup window, it’s important to add Nieuwendyks or Carbonneaus along the way.
The modern game calls for those developments to take place organically as opposed to the acquisitional approach the Stars took in the late 90s. To eventually pay Dellandrea, Harley, and Dadonov/Domi, it takes cap hits of $3.5 million for Pavs, $4 million for Otter, and $7 million for Robo to ensure the team can ice a championship-caliber squad.
As the Stars enter a new era, they lean heavily on their history and produce otherworldly talent at the forward position. Jason Robertson serves as the face of this iteration of NHL history being made, as indicated by Modano passing the torch (and his points record) to the young Star.
Beneath the surface, we see an ode to the past and the reemergence of similar circumstances. At face value, the Stars boast a squad in immediate contention and look to show the world, once again, that America’s Team resides in Dallas.