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Another Successful Dallas Stars Casino Night

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

  FSN Casino Night Video
Mark it down as one of the best parties of the year, and it wasn’t even on a weekend.

The 11th Annual Park Place Texas Dealerships / Dallas Stars Casino Night took place Tuesday night, and based on the fact the event not only raised a lot of money for the Dallas Stars Foundation but also allowed Stars fans the chance to mingle with their favorite players and coaches and try their luck with the cards, it was a hugely entertaining evening. 

“This was definitely the most successful casino night to date,” noted Carla Rosenberg, executive director for the Dallas Stars Foundation. “We had a record turnout of about 500 guests, and it’s a testament to our fans’ support and love for the team. It was a great evening. We raised a record amount of money, more than $200,000 for the Dallas Stars Foundation, which just enables us to put more money back into the community through our grants.”

From playing at the casino tables with Stars dealers, including blackjack, a roulette table, craps and Texas Hold ‘Em, to viewing the incredible auctions (both silent and live), sampling the delicious food catered by Go Fish Ocean Club with an open bar and having the chance to get autographs and take photos with Stars players, everyone had a fun time. 

“I would say that this one’s my favorite,” defenseman Stephane Robidas said of the event. “We get to spend time with people who spend money on our hockey club and it’s good for the Foundation. I think it’s for a good cause. You get to meet people, you get to deal, play a little bit of cards, it’s pretty cool. I think it’s a nice event, everybody’s having fun.”

“It’s like the most wonderful party with the most awesome guests,” said Dawn Lee, a Stars season ticket holder, shortly after having her picture taken with blueliner Darryl Sydor. “They are so very personable and warm, it’s unlike any other professional sport.”

In the beautiful facilities of Park Place Lexus in Plano, Stars fans had the opportunity to venture through large rooms usually filled with luxurious new cars. Troy Tucker, General Manager of Park Place Lexus, explained that the process of transforming the dealership into a casino was well worth the effort.

“It took several weeks of planning,” Tucker acknowledged. “Obviously, we’re trying to run a business at the same time we’re planning for it, but with the amount of space we have with cars usually on display, and being able to clean that off and have room for casino tables and buffet tables and all the silent auction items, it works out really well.

“It’s tremendous exposure for our organization,” he continued. “It rotates around every year, from the different Park Place locations, and we just finished our 12th expansion and we’re really able to show off our facilities. Also, it’s a good cause, obviously. Our participation with what we do with the Stars is great.” 

“I think anything that we’ve done with the Dallas Stars has been a tremendous deal for us and our clients,” added Jordan Case, President of Park Place Lexus, “to get a chance to be involved with some of the athletes and know them off the ice, out from underneath the uniform, out from underneath the helmet and see that these are normal guys just trying to give back to the community. It’s a good partnership for us. These guys have always been first-class.”

For the players, it was a nice opportunity to get away from the pressures of the playoff chase while also serving a good cause.

“I think it’s great for the Foundation, they raise a lot of money on it, so it’s a good thing,” second-year defenseman Nicklas Grossman said. “You go around and deal some blackjack and have fun with everyone, good food and just a good time. It’s a fun thing for us too, to get your mind off hockey, when it’s lot right now.”

“We’re so busy during the year,” Robidas added, “focusing on just playing and playing and now it’s time to relax a little bit and enjoy the night.”

For the newest Star, rookie Ray Sawada, who was just recalled from AHL Manitoba last Thursday and promptly scored a goal in his NHL debut that night, just trying to keep up as the dealer at a blackjack table was challenging, but he still enjoyed meeting his new fans.

“It’s really fun, I’m really nervous trying to keep track of all the numbers on all the cards they have and how much money I owe them,” Sawada said, and laughed. “It is a good time, though – it’s really nice to meet all these people, get to know all the people in the community and the people that have something to do with the organization. It’s a really good event.”

With all the proceeds going to the Dallas Stars Foundation, which distributes hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to various local non-profit organizations and helps out educational programs and grassroots hockey programs throughout the Metroplex, a lot of good came out of all the fun. 

“When you have $250 tickets and 500 tickets sell out pretty quick, there’s some interest there,” noted Case, Park Place Lexus President. “And I think the good thing with the Stars guys is that nearly all of them are down-to-earth guys. They appreciate what they do and they like giving back to the community.”

“It’s a great turnout, I think this one actually had a better turnout from the one last year,” defenseman Mark Fistric said. “I think it’s an awesome event for us to get out and meet a lot of our fans and it’s obviously a great event and all the proceeds go to charity, so it’s a great thing and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Even with a sagging national economy, for the avid fans attending, the experience was a bargain.

“This is awesome, I think it’s worth it, even with the economy,” noted 10-year season ticket holder Linda Shinedling, who was all smiles after getting her picture taken with center Mike Ribeiro. “It’s for a good cause, right? How often do you get to hang out with the Stars? It’s absolutely worth it.”

“For a charity event – and it’s such a wonderful Foundation, it does so many wonderful things in the community – I have no problem paying that,” fan Dawn Lee added. “This is a wonderful opportunity.”

Besides all the poker being played, another key attraction was the presence of magician David Magee, who, while perhaps a little less conspicuous than he was at last year’s event, was no less dazzling with his card tricks and sleight of hand maneuvers. 
“It was great fun,” Magee said. “It’s an honor for me, for them to have me here, to be able to do some of the stuff that I do for some of the fans and for the players, but more importantly for the fans - they’re what really make the night. They’re the real stars tonight.”

Of course, an elegant event like this could not be complete without very tasty food and Go Fish Ocean Club certainly delivered on that count.

“Special thanks to Park Place Dealerships for being the title sponsor again,” Rosenberg said, “to Park Place Lexus in Plano - a great site. The gaming was powered by Tara Energy and the food was provided by Go Fish Ocean Club. Dessert was provided by Wendy Crispin Catering. So overall, it was the best Casino Night ever. We’re very proud of the outcome.”

One of the best parts of the experience was just getting a chance to view the incredible display of rare and valuable items up for silent auction, while some amazing personal experiences fetched top dollar at the live auction emceed by Stars broadcasters Ralph Strangis and Daryl ‘Razor’ Reaugh that capped off the evening.

“We had a terrific live auction due to the fact that we increased player experiences, which are exclusive one-of-a-kind opportunities that our fans really seem to enjoy, such as the Steve Ott skating that went for $10,000,” Rosenberg said of the item that started out as a 30-minute outing with Ott but ended as two separate experiences, which each person bidding $5,000 to spend an hour with the rambunctious Stars winger.

The biggest live auction money-maker was the $13,000 bid to accompany the Stars on a two-game road trip next season, including flying on their luxurious private airplane, staying with the club at their hotel, and of course, tickets to two away games.

The next-highest item auctioned off was the use of a luxury suite at the American Airlines Center to watch an upcoming Stars game with injured captain Brenden Morrow, which went for $6,500, while the golf outing at Honors Golf Club with Marty Turco and Brad Richards went for $6,000.

Overall, the live auction alone raised $47,000.

Then there was the silent auction, which included such covetous items as autographed jerseys from various Stars players, including a Mike Modano Team USA uniform and a Robidas All-Star Game sweater, plus several game-used sticks from different Stars. There were also signed jerseys from such prominent players as legends Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe, Stars co-General Manager Brett Hull, current NHLers Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Martin Brodeur, not to mention stars from other sports such as Dallas Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki, soccer player David Beckham and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

There were also notable non-sports items such as the framed Joker display from the movie The Dark Knight, signed by the late Heath Ledger, and autographed guitars from the bands U2 and the Rolling Stones.

“Silent auctions that did well were definitely Stars memorabilia of the current team, specifically game-used sticks,” Rosenberg reported. “The Heath Ledger piece went for a good amount of money, too.”

Even the players get involved in bidding on the various silent auctions. Winger Jere Lehtinen was eyeing the Heath Ledger display (though there’s no word if he actually bid on it), while Darryl Sydor won the bid for an autographed Toby Keith cowboy hat. Robidas acknowledged buying a few items in past years.

“There’s a lot of nice items,” Robidas noted. “Every year I’ve been pretty involved in trying to buy stuff. Last year, I bought a big frame of mini-sticks from every team, signed by all the captains in the Western Conference, so I have that up in the game room. And I bought a Lemieux All-Star Game jersey one year, so there’s some cool stuff. It’s nice and I think it’s for a good cause and everybody’s having fun.” 

Overall, the night was a big success, both for the money it raised for the Foundation and because it allowed the players and fans to interact as just regular people having fun together in a festive environment.

“It’s awesome,” said season ticket holder Melissa Hutton, who played blackjack with Ribeiro, Sawada and Robidas dealing the cards. “Obviously, just to see the Stars, hanging out, having a good time outside of the game and actually getting to talk to them.”

“It’s nice to come out and mingle a little bit, and enjoy some dealing casino, which for most of us, who have trouble counting to five, it’s impressive watching us do blackjack,” joked winger Mark Parrish. “It’s nice to get together with the sponsors and some of the fans and not talk about the winning and losing and all that, but just have a good time.” 

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