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Centennial Fan Arena

NHL Centennial Fan Arena rolls into Dallas

Exhibit includes games, historical memorabilia, old-time equipment, jerseys

by Sean Shapiro / Correspondent

DALLAS -- Crystal Melero has never watched a hockey game, at least not in a traditional sense.

Melero, 26, was born with a retinal disease and lost most of her vision by the time she turned 17. Today she has basic light perception and can only see "lights and some big buildings."

But that hasn't stopped her from becoming a passionate Dallas Stars fan. Melero listens to the radio broadcasts, and when she attends games at American Airlines Center she tracks the action with her finger on a notepad-sized rink that her boyfriend Casey Unger made for her before they attended their first game together in 2014.

"He'll tell me if they are at the red line or the blue line and I'm following along on my little hockey rink," Melero said.

"I kind of play broadcaster at the game," Unger said.

"He is my radio," Melero said.

Melero was among the large group of fans enjoying the NHL Centennial Fan Arena, which stopped in Dallas on Thursday for a three-day stay.

Melero was on the pop-up ball hockey rink shooting pucks at the net, with Unger helping direct her where to shoot. She also took a turn driving the virtual reality Zamboni.

"It's given me an opportunity to see what a Zamboni looks like," said Unger, who completed the 90-second ride with some auditory help. "It's been awesome."

Fans had rave reviews for the exhibit, which also featured a museum truck with old-time equipment and jerseys. The NHL Centennial Fan Arena will be in Dallas through Saturday, and the Stanley Cup will be on display before Saturday's game between the Stars and Minnesota Wild.

The old-time jerseys and equipment were particularly special to Robert Casey, 66, and his wife Margaret, who drove an hour and a half from Gainesville, Texas, to watch the Stars play the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

"It was special to see the (California Golden) Seals jersey," Casey said. "We went to go see their games when I was stationed on the West Coast."

Casey attended his first Seals game in 1974 when he was a nuclear reactor operator on a military submarine.

"We watched the Seals as often as I could cut loose and go out there," he said.

While Casey was sharing memories, Blamen Dicheu, 35, was able to introduce his daughters Djuliana, 8, and Simona, 3, to a bit of hockey history.

"I liked it," Djuliana said. "There was some things from the past and all the way to now."

Dicheu moved to Dallas from his native Bulgaria 10 years ago and has been a passionate Stars fan ever since.

"Where I'm from, hockey isn't so popular because it's expensive," Dicheu said. "But I can't resist it. The game, the speed, it's so much fun."

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