DALLAS -- It was a dream come true for Cole Staley to play at American Airlines Center on Friday.
"It's sort of like my dream to be an NHL player," Staley said. "So it was pretty cool."
Staley, 10, and the rest of his squirt teammates got to skate through the entrance star that the Dallas Stars skate through before home games. The national anthem was played. Announcements were made for goals, assists, and even attendance (143) when Staley and his teammates pulled out a 4-3 comeback win after trailing in the third period.
"It was awesome," James Strong said. "It was the best time of my life. Honestly I expected to lose, like last year. Winning was more fun."
It was the first game of a tripleheader for the Dallas Stars Metro Hockey League "Rink of Dreams" event. Each year Dallas Stars Metro Hockey League teams across all age divisions that play at Dr. Pepper StarCenter have an opportunity to play one regular-season game at American Airlines Center.
"It felt like a real NHL game," Staley said.
This year there was a bit more fanfare, the games aligned with the NHL Centennial Fan Arena making a three-day stop in Dallas.
Before their games youth players had an opportunity to tour the museum truck, play on the pop-up ball hockey rink, and pilot a virtual reality Zamboni.
Brothers Cade Brekken, 10, and Drew Brekken, 12, had played games at the NHL arena before, but said being able to see the hockey history before made it a bit more special.
"I liked seeing what all the equipment has moved from," Drew Brekken said. "Like seeing the old skates and looking at the goalie pads to the newer ones."
"I liked seeing Zdeno Chara's skates," Cade Brekken said while demonstrating with his hands how big the skate was.
The interactive exhibits were also a hit. Jackson, 9, and his 7-year-old brother Trey Ostella took turns clearing the ice on the virtual Zamboni. Earlier they had posed for photos in the Dallas Stars lockers in the museum truck.
"That was one of their favorite parts," Michael Ostella, the boys' father, said. "They got a real kick out of that and enjoyed seeing their names."
The NHL Centennial Fan Arena will remain setup outside American Airlines Center through the Stars game against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-N, FS-WI, NHL.TV). The Stanley Cup will be in attendance for fans to see from noon to 6:30 p.m. prior to the game.
The fan arena will head to San Jose next for a two-day stint outside SAP Center.