Mark McFarlane called it a "rock star aura," those heady days of 50-win seasons, Quad-City Mallards championships won in front of sell-out crowds.
But what was life like when the music stopped?
"When I left there, I went to Kansas," said McFarlane, who retired after winning the third of three titles over five seasons with the Mallards in 2001. "The anonymity there was unbelievable. No one knew who you were, and it definitely was an adjustment for me."
McFarlane won't be anonymous this weekend. He will be joined by former Mallards championship teammates Howie Rosenblatt, Kerry Toporowski, Sergei Zvyagin and Steve Gibson, among others, for an Alumni Weekend celebration before and during Friday and Saturday games featuring the current crop of Mallards.
First-year team president and minor league hockey veteran Chris Presson said there's a definite buzz around town.
"People are interested in those guys, probably moreso than any place I've ever been," he said.
For McFarlane and so many other ex-Mallards, those early days of Quad-Cities professional hockey were the best days of long careers.
Zvyagin, the Russian-born goaltender whose work in net keyed a pair of titles, is in his first year of retirement after moving on to play hockey at the highest levels in his homeland.
He said nothing he experienced after his last Quad-Cities appearance in 1999 matched the heyday atmosphere at the former Mark of the Quad-Cities.
"Quite definitely, it was unique and what was crazy about it was we weren't making much, and it definitely wasn't a very high level of hockey," he said from his home near Detroit. "Most of the guys were just looking for a free meal, and we were treated like kings.
"I played in Moscow, which is 15 million people. People would recognize you, but it was special with the Mallards because you just felt like you belonged there. You were one of the family."
Gibson and Toporowski settled into family lives and their own established businesses in the Quad-Cities after their retirements in 2004. They still feel at home here and said they still are recognized by fans when they are out and about.
Like McFarlane, however, Rosenblatt's adjustment to life after being a Mallard was difficult.
"You wake up one morning and it's like ‘Now what?' " said Rosenblatt, now a 42-year-old firefighter in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Married to a Quad-Cities girl at the time, Rosenblatt stuck around the area for a couple of years but returned to Rhode Island after his divorce in 2002.
"I'm blessed I was able to find the fire department where I actually feel like I'm doing something productive with my life," he said. But he isn't being cheered 9,500 full-throated fans when he puts the hose to a fire.
"When I go to a grocery store in Rhode Island, nobody is really patting me on the back or asking for my autograph,'' said Rosenblatt, who is single and gets his hockey fix coaching select juniors and high school hockey.
The lack of recognition is something McFarlane battled after following his first wife to Kansas.
"When you get into the real world, the work world, no one knows who you are," he said. "You are another number. That was an adjustment, and it took me quite a bit of time actually.
"It's almost like a depression you went through when you quit playing. Aside from missing hockey and the guys you played with, again there is something to be said for the status you have in the community."
Now a salesman living in Portland, Maine, McFarlane said he relives his best Q-C moments when his 9-year-old stepson hauls a piece of Mallards memorabilia or a news clipping from the basement, something that happens with regularity, he said.
Zvyagin's family will join him for this weekend's reunion.
"I want my son to experience it," he said of 9-year-old Julian. "I know it's not going to be anything big, but he will remember this. I want him to see the rink. It's my favorite rink in the world."