Dallas Stars forward Vernon Fiddler has a single three-goal game to his credit, scored on Nov. 12, 2010 as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes. But at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on June 7, the veteran center came away with a whole other kind of hat trick.
Attending the latest stop on country singer George Strait's "Cowboy Rides Away" tour, Fiddler was in the right place at the right time when the legendary musician flung his cowboy hat into the crowd as the concert ended. Fiddler barely had to move as the iconic piece of country memorabilia came right to him.
"At the end, he comes out for his encore and my buddy said, 'You're going to catch this hat, watch.' I looked at him and thought, 'What are you talking about?'" Fiddler told NHL.com. "[Strait] walked off the stage and it looked he wasn't going to even throw his hat. He came back on stage and said, 'I forgot. Somebody might want this.' He chucked it and it boomeranged around four or five rows away from me and then came back and landed right on my lap."
It was the perfect close to a memorable evening. In one of his final shows, Strait played a selection of his biggest hits in front of 104,793 fans. The attendance figure set a new record previously held by the Rolling Stones for the largest crowd at a concert in North America.
Fiddler went back home shortly after the concert ended, but made an exciting discovery when he took a closer look at the hat.
"I didn't get to meet [Strait], but he had already signed the inside," Fiddler said.
The hat was the perfect addition to a considerable collection of country music memorabilia Fiddler started putting together when he began his career with the Nashville Predators. It already included guitars autographed by Kenny Chesney, Kid Rock, Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band.
"It was such a great show that that wasn't really expected. It's something you don't even think about," Fiddler said. "I've collected several guitars and stuff over the course of my career playing in Nashville. But this would definitely have to be my best piece for the collection."
Word of Fiddler's new hat spread quickly via social media and it didn't take long for people to start approaching the NHL vet about his legendary headware. The Country Music Hall of Fame even contacted him about contributing the hat to their museum. For the time being, Fiddler has no plans to part with his newest country music keepsake.
"It's definitely something I want to keep close to me," he said. "People expect someone to have the hat, but they probably don't expect it to be a hockey player. That's the last person they expect to have it. I guess you can call it some type of hat trick."