I went down to the Pacific Sports Center yesterday to speak to coach Joe Waters about the new indoor Tacoma Stars. I’ll have a story on that coming up soon. However, I also had to ask about the old Tacoma Stars, and especially that legendary night in 1987 when a still-record crowd of 21,728 packed the Tacoma Dome for the Stars’ MISL championship final against the Dallas Sidekicks.
Here is Waters’ vivid recollection:
“That whole series was phenomenal. In fact that whole playoff year, we went to five games, I think, in the first round against Wichita; then we went to seven games against San Diego and finally beat them back in the Dome. And then we went to seven games with Dallas. But Dallas had actually won all of theirs in short periods. … They were rested, waiting for us. But they were a terrific team. They were built very much along the same lines that we were. It was no surprise really, that it went to Game 7.
“But that night in the Tacoma Dome, if there was one thing I could change about all of it – and I had no control over it – but I found out later that the one thing that inspired the Dallas players more than anything else was seeing the balloons at the top of the Dome being ready to be let onto the field when we won. We ended up eventually having a few of those guys coming over and playing for us, and they said that that was one of the motivations that they saw.
“But it just wasn’t that. They were a terrific team. They were a great team. They were two teams that were well matched. We had a blowout, they had a blowout; we lost in overtime here, they lost in double-overtime there. And then they won it in overtime. It couldn’t have been a better series, really. Only for us, it was disappointing how it came out. I still speak to people today, and some of them couldn’t be at the game, and they were listening on the radio. It was an amazing time. Especially when I first came, we were probably drawing maybe 2,000 people. And then we get to this pinnacle of the game. And it felt great to do it. But also the disappointment of getting there and not pulling it off for your people.
“I remember we had a downtown parade. I remember all the boys we went into the office on A Street, and all the boys were just like down and we had a team meeting and (Stars coach Alan Hinton) spoke to us and gave us these words of wisdom. I remember we were walking up A Street to the little park where we were supposed to have the rally before we go in the cars, and as we were talking up we were all kind of talking and doing out thing, and all of a sudden this cheer started. And our fans were up there, and all of a sudden, guys whose shoulders were stooped because they felt bad about the night before all of a sudden started walking upright. The fans were cheering and happy, and that really I think said it for us. We knew that we hadn’t really let them down. It was still disappointing, but we knew that they still cared about us.
“But the noise in the Dome that night was unbelievable. You couldn’t hear yourself think. We had thunder going all throughout. The Bleacher Bums were going, banging on the glass. It was just, ‘Man this was insane.’ It really was. It was ’87, so here we are 25 years later, and I can still relive it in my mind how it was. It was truly amazing. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I really wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It was amazing.”