Skip to content

Hockey Day in America: Observations from the Lone Star State

Feb 17, 2013, 5:30 AM EST

Mike Modano AP

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.

I didn’t live or die with every win, loss and foot in the crease. Still, I remember many of the highlights (and low moments, like Ed Belfour leaving a hotel in handcuffs and a FUBU sweater).

Perhaps that distance provides a nuanced view of the team, which I’ll try to summarize in this post.

Early riches

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:

That being said, running family-friendly and dirt-cheap ticket promotions is important, too.

The Future

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Hasek, Niedermayer, Reichel highlight IIHF Hall of Fame class

    Dec 18, 2014, 12:13 PM EST

    1998 Winter Olympics In Nagano, Japan Getty Images

    Along with builder Fran Rider, and former Swedish international Maria Rooth.

  2. Preds waive Stalberg

    Dec 18, 2014, 11:59 AM EST

    Viktor Stalberg #25 of the Nashville Predators warms up prior to a game against the Winnipeg Jets at Bridgestone Arena on October 24, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.
(October 23, 2013 - Source: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

    Former 20-goal scorer — and Stanley Cup winner — has been a bust in Nashville.

  3. Sestito sounds off, says he ‘hasn’t been given a fair shake’ in Vancouver

    Dec 18, 2014, 11:51 AM EST

    Tom Sestito, Luke Gazdic AP

    “It’s a pretty simple game I play, and if they’re not a fan of it, I’ve got to play somewhere else, I guess.”

  4. Sens loan Lazar to Team Canada for World Juniors

    Dec 18, 2014, 11:36 AM EST

    Colorado Avalanche v Ottawa Senators Colorado Avalanche v Ottawa Senators

    Where he’ll play alongside Rangers forward Anthony Duclair.

  5. Habs demote Andrighetto, who made a strong impression

    Dec 18, 2014, 11:32 AM EST

    Montreal Canadians v Chicago Blackhawks Getty Images

    The 21-year-old had three points in four games.

  6. Penguins clear Fleury, continue to deal with mumps

    Dec 18, 2014, 10:47 AM EST

    Pittsburgh Penguins v Carolina Hurricanes Getty Images

    Thomas Greiss is being isolated in case he also has the ailment.

  7. Beliveau’s family thanks community for ‘heartwarming tributes’

    Dec 18, 2014, 9:49 AM EST

    beliveauandfamily

    “He respected all of you unconditionally.”

  8. Video: Who are the Bruins targeting in trade talks?

    Dec 18, 2014, 2:05 AM EST

    Peter Chiarelli AP

    Chris Stewart is one name, which has been linked to Boston.

  9. Mark Howe on his father’s health: ‘He’s back in the ballgame’

    Dec 18, 2014, 1:40 AM EST

    Antti Niemi Antti Niemi

    He’s even walking under his own power according to the report.

  10. Treliving: ‘We’ve got the right guy steering the boat’

    Dec 18, 2014, 12:45 AM EST

    Brad Treliving AP

    Calgary signed Bob Hartley to a multi-year extension Wednesday.

  11. Video: Is Peter DeBoer’s job on the line in New Jersey?

    Dec 18, 2014, 12:15 AM EST

    50667_panthers_penguins_hockey-peterdeboer

    The Devils have lost five straight.

  12. Video: Lehigh Valley Phantoms score 3 in 21 seconds

    Dec 17, 2014, 11:15 PM EST

    Columbus Blue Jackets v Philadelphia Flyers Getty Images

    Jason Akeson was in on the action for the Flyers’ affiliate.

  13. Turris, Anderson lead Sens over Devils

    Dec 17, 2014, 10:15 PM EST

    Craig Anderson AP

    New Jersey has now lost five straight.

  14. Holland: ‘I’m not against fighting’

    Dec 17, 2014, 9:30 PM EST

    Ken Holland

    Detroit ranks 30th this season in fighting majors.

  15. Penguins recall goaltender Jeff Zatkoff

    Dec 17, 2014, 8:45 PM EST

    SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 11: Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff #37 of the Pittsburgh Penguins stops a shot by the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on October 11, 2013 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Penguins 6-3. Getty Images

    Marc-Andre Fleury is unavailable Thursday.

Featured video

Next steps for the Oilers after Eakins

Sign up for Fantasy hockey

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. S. Crosby (4327)
  2. D. Krejci (2933)
  3. C. Crawford (2453)
  4. B. Bishop (2423)
  5. C. Kunitz (2268)
  1. J. Toews (2084)
  2. O. Palat (1972)
  3. C. Perry (1905)
  4. B. Elliott (1726)
  5. J. Boychuk (1525)