Since the Dallas Stars have been in existence I have been a fan. I couldn’t help myself. They scored a lot, won a lot, and played a passionate style of hockey. A fan first by geographic location, over time I learned to truly love the team southbound on I-35.
As the seasons rolled on there were teams that I grew to despise in those early days, teams that beat my Stars literally AND on the scoreboard. Although they were a winsome bunch most of the time, there were a few teams that really seemed to turn my smile into a scowl. One such team was the Edmonton Oilers.
The 1996-1997 season began the rivalry in my mind. After Dallas missed the playoffs the year prior, they soared to 104 standing points the next. It was a remarkable feat, no doubt aided by some greats – Modano, Nieuwendyk, Zubov, Lehtinen, Sydor. They were passionately wound tight, and they played a team game better than they had in the three previous seasons of play. But when the playoffs rolled around that year — with the Stars a heavy favorite in the West — the Oilers became a hated foe.
Back and forth the teams battled for seven games during the Conferences Quarterfinals with three games going into overtime including one in double overtime. Dallas beat Edmonton by two goals in Reuinion Arena, then the Oilers walloped them two days later 4-0. The next five games were decided by a solitary goal. It was a magical match up. Game seven would be legendary. Todd Marchant would notch the game-winning goal that forever turns my stomach into knots. As a matter of fact, here it is, in all of its disgusting glory.
Indeed time can heal all wounds, but so can dominating the team that you hated so passionately. Following that fateful night in April when Marchant crushed my Stars-lovin’ soul, Dallas would make right what went wrong. The next five postseason runs for the Stars featured a moment where they dominated the team from Northern Alberta. It was beautiful if not tragic, and I giggled with glee.
Fast forward to 2016. I now love both the Edmonton Oilers and the Dallas Stars. How did we get here?
My fever dream of professional hockey came to fruition when the Edmonton Oilers (of all people) staked their claim in Oklahoma for five seasons as they landed their farm squad at the Cox Center. As Hall & Oates famously sang you made my dream come true. Truthfully it was the perfect setup. A team, on the skids, trying to do better, banking on a farm squad, wanting renewed energy. It was endearing. Thus in five years my rage against Marchant, and the Edmonton Oilers, turned to pillowy soft affection. They were a part of me, unlike a Dallas club that I really just loved from a far. Historically speaking there would be a place when people would look back and remember ties to Oklahoma. The Stars never gave me that. So I became an Oilers fan. I remained a Stars fan.
Tonight both teams play their final meeting of the 2015-16 season. I can’t help but feel like this is an unsung rivalry that has faded away over the seasons. Not just with the Oilers struggling to find their sea legs, but because both teams are blossoming at different times. Regardless, when North meets South, and Victory Green meets Orange things get interesting. Rivalries these days don’t feel authentic, until their become more organic. And this one continues to be interesting because the history is short, sweet, and not-so-far into the ether.
I have both the Stars and the Oilers to thank for my love of hockey. Without the Stars I wouldn’t have clung so desperately to a sport I knew nothing about. Without the Oilers I may never have had a team I could call my “own”. Life is weird, there is no denying this, and through some odd twists I can love two teams that should hate each other, nay, that DO hate each other.
And if these words don’t inspire you to figure out a way to cross the aisle, and speak kindly to a Stars fan or an Oilers fan just remember that Todd Marchant was eventually an Anaheim Duck. Nothing rallies the troops quite like this nugget of wisdom.