Foundation-noun: a basis (as a tenet, principle, or axiom) upon which something stands or is supported.
Quite simply put, the foundation of anything, be it an idea, a building or an organization, is the start of the building process and it must be the strongest aspect of the entire process. For the Dallas Stars, you didn’t have to look beyond the blue line to find their foundation from their first year in Dallas up until the end of 2003. When you talked about the Dallas Stars during the 1990’s, you often spoke of Mike Modano. If you spoke poorly or even acted out toward Modano out on the ice, you were introduced to the captain, Derian Hatcher.
In 1990, the Minnesota North Stars looked to draft size, and found one of the largest finds in American-born Hatcher. Drafted 8th overall, Derian would be the defensive counterpart to Mike Modano and when the North Stars moved down I-35 to their new home in Dallas, Hatcher would be named captain in 1995 and would hold onto the “C” until his departure in 2003.
Derian, standing at 6’5” and weighing just at 240, was a force on the ice and in the room. To the casual fan, “Big Hatch” seemed like the kind of leader that just let his actions doing the talking. He let everyone know what he thought and how he felt and he generally didn’t have to utter a sound. There is a story that is popular amongst some older and former Stars players that if someone got a hold of the boombox in the locker room and Derian didn’t like what the music selection was, he simply would walk over, take out the CD, break it in half and drop it on the floor as he walked away.
Or, if you’d like more proof, ask Jeremy Roenick, former Phoenix Coyotes forward and fellow USA Hockey Hall of Fame inductee with Hatcher in 2010. In late March of 1999, JR clocked Modano with a high, but clean hit. In a time before social media had everyone under the microscope, word traveled slowly that JR was going to have a target on his back the next time the two teams were to meet, which was in just three weeks. At the 5:50 mark of the first period, Roenick was behind the Stars net and as Modano was closing in on his forecheck, Derian Hatcher came flying in (literally) and with his right shoulder, slammed into JR’s head, breaking his jaw in three places and breaking 8 teeth.
Hatcher would go on and receive what was at the time the longest suspension in league history and missed the first round sweep of the Edmonton Oilers. Perhaps that was a blessing as the deciding game four ran well into the night thanks to overtime and during the next series against St. Louis, four of the six games played all went into overtime. Having Derian miss the first round probably allowed for Hatch to rest and heal up some nagging season injuries.
It all culminated on June 19th, when Derian Hatcher became the first American-born captain to hoist the Stanley Cup.
The Stars haven’t been quite the same since Derian signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Detroit Red Wings. The other teams have seemed to move a little more at will against the Stars and the bodies that builds up in front of the net seems to get denser. As the team moved into the mid-2000s and into the darkest depths of the Tom Hicks financial black hole, the team looked to build a faster, more skilled offensive look. There is no coincidence the Stars have had very little success. Now, the Stars are young and the size is coming back. Perhaps it’s also no coincidence that the general manager, Joe Nieuwendyk, played and won the Stanley Cup with Derian Hatcher as his captain. Twenty years later, the Stars look to rebuild and as the foundation of the rebuild, Derian Hatcher is the inspiration.