Stars smell like success
Posted: Tuesday June 22, 1999 07:02 PM
By Kostya Kennedy, Sports Illustrated
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Stanley Cup was won.
After a ridiculously taxing, deeply intense test of wills, spanning 114:51 of playing time, the Stars had prevailed 2-1 over the Sabres. They had played 105 games since the start of the season in October. Now it was late June and no one was going to sleep at 3:00 a.m.
The locker room was in an ongoing, ever developing state of jubilation. So many bodies pressed together, embracing, laughing.
The sweet smoke of burning cigars cut the smell of sweat and goalie Ed Belfour, who turned out to be as valuable a Star as anyone, Conn Smythe winner Joe Nieuwendyk not withstanding, announced that he had not had a drink in three months and that it was high time to party.
Mingling among the soaring, satisfied Stars were wives and mothers and children and brothers and friends.
Team owner Tom Hicks, was there, clad in black, knee-high leather boots that could have crushed a small Sabre. The boots had Stanley Cups engraved upon them. Hicks had brought them along in bag, and hadn't dared don them until Brett Hull pushed in that final, controversial goal that won the Trophy.
Hull was there too of course, presiding like the King of the World. He sat atop the lockers, his head less than a foot from the paneled ceiling, answering questions about his goal.
Microphones kept popping up to where he was, earnest reporters on tip toes, arms outstretched. Hull told about how he had scored it on two game legs, groin muscles sore and badly bruised, ligaments damaged in his right knee.
After each period the Stars had re-taped Hull, and by the end coach Ken Hitchcock was using him very sparingly. Hull only played a few shifts in that last overtime and Hitchcock said that a few minutes before the deciding play he had thought that hobbled Hull was finished for the night.
"There was no way I was coming out," said Hull, high above it all, his tee shirt soaked in champagne, grinning. "I couldn't have played Game 7 though."
Then, as if he suddenly realized that even this great glory would pass, that hockey seasons are long and demanding and that the rewards -- including the fabulous, extraordinary once-in-a-life-time reward of this night -- are few, he shouted for all to hear: "I'm going to be late for training camp, I'm injured."
Hull put his head back and laughed and puffed his cigar, and laughed again. The Stanley Cup was won.
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