I can still remember the day I became a Dallas Stars fan: October 14th, 1995. I was about 9 years old. One night I was channel-surfing and came across this bizarre activity consisting of a bunch of tough guys lugging sticks up and down a sheet of ice. There were about three minutes left in the game and the Stars were down by two goals. At that point, something strange and confusing happened – the Stars scored three goals in the final minute to beat some team called the Boston Bruins. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew it was awesome. (a link to that final minute of the game can be seen here: Stars Comeback)
Fast-forward a few years to 1999. I am now 12 years old and I’ve just moved to Dallas. The Stars were in the playoffs once again and they were trying to rectify playoff failures in recent seasons past. It was a team rising with a mix of gritty veterans and young, explosive skill players. The opponent in the Western Conference Finals was the daunting Colorado Avalanche led by future hall of famers Patrick Roy, Peter Foresberg, and Joe Sakic. For the next two weeks, 12 year old Jake was taken down the most riveting, suspenseful, and gut-wrenching ride he had ever experienced. The series went back and forth, games were close, and they often went down to the final second before they were decided. Along the way, I grew to hate the Avalanche and in the end, the Stars won the series in seven games. That Stars team went on to win the Stanley Cup and that summer of 1999 remains the most jubilant summer of my life.
At this point, you might be asking, “what does this have to do with me?”
I am glad you asked. The Dallas Stars fan base has greatly deteriorated over the past decade thanks in part to incompetent management and even worse ownership by none other than the great Tom Hicks (does this scenario sound familiar, Ranger fans?). Last year, the Stars were able to extricate themselves from the Tommy Hicks black hole and were sold to Vancouver-native Tom Gaglardi (pronounced Gu-lar-dy,). Galgardi is an ambitious owner with deep pockets and a strong desire to win. This past summer, Gaglardi hired former Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill to be the Stars general manager. Nill, a highly coveted executive by several teams in the NHL, made an immediate splash when he traded for superstar Tyler Seguin (Say-gun) and drafted, who I believe will one day be the best player in the game, Valeri Nichushkin.
The current Dallas Stars have as much upside as any team in the NHL. Going forward, Jim Nill will build this organization around the current nucleus consisting of Seguin, Nichushkin, and other brilliant young players like team captain Jamie Benn, goaltender Kari Lehtonen, and defenseman Brenden Dillon. The team is heading in the right direction and I am convinced it will not be long before we return to the levels of the late 90s. Even KTCK’s Norm Hitzges believes the Stars will win a championship before any of the other DFW teams. Yes, even before the Texas Rangers.
So, I offer this challenge: follow the team for one year. If you watch the games and learn the players, I can almost promise you will become addicted. There is at least one player on the team that has a personality to which you can relate. If you like the flashy superstar type, there is Tyler Seguin. If you are more drawn to the quiet leader who just goes out there and plays, meet Jaime Benn. Drawn to raw power and strength? Valeri Nichushkin. Or, maybe you prefer a courageous fighter who accomplishes his missions through pure will and a dash of vice. Antoine Roussel is your guy.
In future articles, I will get deeper into covering the team on a more game-to-game basis. First, however, I wanted to present a high-level introduction to a team I believe will capture the hearts of the sports fans of the metroplex much like the Rangers have in recent years. In several ways, the Stars remind me of the 2008 or 2009 Ranger teams. A team that was in a building process and was on the verge of something spectacular. Therefore, get on the bandwagon now while there are still plenty of good seats and let’s go have a hockey party.