Season 21: 1996-97
No doubt Carbos teammates occasionally referred to the oldest man on the Stars as a dinosaur. Sad to say, in professional sports he is a bit of that. His love of the game truly does supercede all other considerations, especially ego and money. How many players with offensive skills happily set them aside in order to play a needed role on the team? How many are simply grateful to play, regardless of salary?
Guys ceremonial choice of being last on the ice is no empty symbol. If youve seen footage of his Cup wins, he is the one always hanging back, reveling more in watching the joy of his teammates than in celebrating his own success. His selflessness affects his play, which is never about personal glory. He is fervently competitive but will never put other players at risk or compromise fairness. Although his nature is to be less than comfortable in public situations, he has never skimped on donating his time and attention to the requirements of celebrity. And although he doesnt call attention to himself, Carbonneau draws it nonetheless, like the rare gem that he is among pro athletes.
In spite of his not wearing the C or A for the Dallas Stars, by the 1996-97 season Carbonneaus influence had already begun to affect the team. Always a leader, the perfect mentor for young players, a man with an unquenchable work ethic, Guy quietly helped foster a championship attitude among the Stars.
And a transformation began on a team which had been struggling for years. Some more smart trades improved the lineup, and Coach Hitchcock developed the defensive style for which the team would become renowned. By the end of the season Dallas was among the leagues best, Central Division Champions, having completed the fifth best turnaround in NHL history. Therefore it was a complete shock to all when the hot goaltending of Curtis Joseph resulted in the narrow elimination of the Stars in the first round of the playoffs.
Guy was 37 years old. He was a year younger than Wayne Gretzky would be when he hung up his skates, and had a few other things in common with the Great One. Like Gretzky he had given his life to the sport for two decades, and seen it evolve, and done his best to foster the ideals of the game he had learned in his youth. So maybe hockey was "a younger mans game," and maybe the league and its players were taking on more and more of the unfortunate traits of the other professional sports. And maybe it was time to think about taking it a little easier, slowly fading out, aging gracefully.
Funny thing, though in fact, Guy wasnt aging at all. And the time was coming for him to play a larger role, to become a stronger leader, to achieve greater goals.
love can keep one young.
1997-98 Dallas Stars Official Yearbook.
Hockey Over Time web site (Joe Pelletier and Patrick Houda)