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Associated Press
Oct 27, 2006, 4:18 PM EDT


Mike Modano knows what happens when Ken Hitchcock's blustery message falls on deaf ears.

The brash, demanding style worked for a while in Dallas at the turn of the century. The Stars skated with the Stanley Cup in 1999 and fell two wins shy of defending their title a year later.

But less than two seasons after that, Hitchcock was let go - a victim of a team that tuned him out.

"We always used to put a quote up on the board, 'Larry Bird says coaches can only coach a team for three years,"' the Stars forward said. "You get into a team, make adjustments, bring the team you want in, try to solidify something. After that, I think it's just in one ear, out the other.

"Coaches have to change just as much as the players."

Hitchcock lasted parts of seven seasons in Dallas, about twice as long as his tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers that ended last weekend with his firing.

It wasn't just the 1-6-1 start that doomed Hitchcock. His time was running out as far back as last season when the Flyers were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by Buffalo.

A 9-1 loss to the Sabres this season sealed his fate, and his dismissal was parlayed with the announcement that burned-out general manager Bob Clarke gave up his post.

Even though Hitchcock signed an extension through the 2008-09 season, he was gone early into his fourth season in Philadelphia.

"I enjoyed playing for him," Modano said a day after Hitchcock's dismissal. "He's demanding and hard but there was a reason and a method to his madness.

"It's tough to fire 22 players. Somebody has to go."

And just like back in Dallas, that man was Hitchcock.

A Stanley Cup title followed by a Western Conference championship didn't help the fiery Hitchcock when the Stars stumbled to a 23-21-6 start through 50 games of the 2001-02 season.

Most of the veterans that stood behind the big coach were gone, and the youngsters that were brought in didn't really buy into what he was selling.

"He was still on us up until February that year we won," Modano said of the 1998-99 campaign. "We only lost nine games until February and he was still as demanding at game 60-something and 70-something that year as he was in the first 10. He never let off the gas that whole year."

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