Feb 17, 2013, 5:30 AM EDT
Today is Hockey Day in America, an all-day celebration of the sport throughout the United States. NBC will air nine hours of live coverage across its networks; here at PHT, we’re taking a look at stories of hockey’s impact across the country.
As a transplant from the Northeast, I’ve spent 15 years in the Dallas area as a curious observer rather than a hardcore Stars fan.
Perhaps that distance provides a nuanced view of the team, which I’ll try to summarize in this post.
It’s difficult for me to shake the parallels between the Colorado Avalanche and the Stars. Both teams moved from hockey hotbeds to somewhat unexpected locales — the Stars moved from Minnesota in 1993-94; the Avs moved from Quebec City in 1995-96 — and each city inherited huge names and experienced quick success.
And, to some extent, that probably made both markets look a little too strong right out of the gate. In a way, they’re both going through the awkward community-building and transitional stages* they initially leapfrogged because they had great teams without the wait.
But even armed with a strong team, the Stars front office still had to appeal to a “non-traditional” market. The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika was most impressed by a charity pick-up game that former coach Ken Hitchcock concocted:
“ … The Charity Challenge on Ice was eventually played at Reunion Arena to more than 10,000 fans with Daryl Reaugh acting as a coach on one bench dressed as Herb Brooks,” Heika wrote in an e-mail. “For a few years in Dallas, the coolest thing you could be was a Stars fan. Then, the team started losing and slipped into bankruptcy, and management decided there would be no promotion and no freebies. That resulted in several crowds under 8,000 people last season.
“Basically, the organization didn’t care about the fans, so the fans stopped caring about the organization. In November 2011, Tom Gaglardi bought the team, and put Lites back in charge, and they are trying to use the old model to fill the building again.
“We’ll see if there is another wild card like Hitchcock out there to push them over the top.”
(Reaugh as Brooks? Yeah, that’s pretty cool.)
Winning and Fun
Ultimately, as Heika notes, Dallas is “a winners town” so a playoff berth – and ideally, a deep run – is what will get people coming in higher numbers.
In the meantime, the Stars would be wise to follow other teams when it comes to marketing their team with humor. Personally, I’d love to see them employ the lighthearted approach of the Brett Hull “Ambassador of Fun” ads … even if that era isn’t really associated with on-ice success:
Overall, the Stars are a work in progress with a much-needed new owner. Forwards Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson (plus some solid young blueliners and a great-if-fragile goalie) represent the future while Jaromir Jagr and Brenden Morrow are a bridge to the past.
The franchise needs to keep building, but it’s uncertain if it will enjoy the amazing luck of its early golden era.
* – According to ESPN’s attendance numbers, the Stars went from being ranked 12th among NHL teams in attendance in 2007 to 28th last season.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
He’s currently an unrestricted free agent.
Aug 29, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
Columbus bet heavily on him this summer.
Aug 29, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Just making the postseason would be seen as a good season, but perhaps the Blue Jackets are in position to do more.
Aug 29, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
Carey Price leads the pack.
Aug 29, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
This will be his first full season as a pro.
Aug 29, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
They’ll be paying him like one.
Aug 29, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
“We did lose a great man.”
Aug 29, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
The Blue Jackets have to hope for better health this season.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Looking to bounce back after an injury-ravaged campaign.
Aug 28, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT
You know, the one injured on “that” slash from P.K. Subban.
Aug 28, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
Which is great news for Dallas.
Aug 28, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
The club’s top pick at this year’s draft.
Aug 28, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT
Former Avs and Habs goalie spent all of last year in the AHL.
Aug 28, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT
Yet another NHL club hiring a fancy stats guy.
Aug 28, 2015, 3:55 PM EDT
Scored a career-high 19 goals and 40 points last year.
Aug 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Former Panthers, Devils head coach takes over a team that “hit a little bit of a rut.”
Aug 28, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT
After an up-and-down rookie year, he’s looking to solidify his spot.
Aug 28, 2015, 12:19 PM EDT
Legendary Isles coach had been battling Parkinson’s and dementia.
Aug 28, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Bit of an issue last season, if you’ll recall.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
From little-used backup to clear-cut No. 1.
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