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Back To School

by Erin Chenderlin / Dallas Stars

Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas took time out of his day Tuesday and headed to Marion Elementary School in Allen, where he talked to the second-grade class about hockey. In an informal question-and-answer session, about 120 children sat in the cafeteria as Robidas answered questions about himself, his sport and his teammates.

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“I wanted it to be informal, it’s easier that way so the kids can basically ask anything and I’ll try and answer as best as I can,” Robidas said. “Kids are really smart and they pick everything up. They asked great questions. It was fun, and hopefully they were happy with my answers.”

Questions included why he chose to play hockey (because he grew up in Canada and his dad loved it), when he started skating (age 3), why he wears the No. 3 (because his birthday is March 3) and how it feels when they win a game (‘It’s why we do what we do,’ he said). Asked who the best player on the team was, Robidas answered center Mike Ribeiro because of his overall skill. He was also asked who the worst player on the team was, which he dodged gracefully as he chuckled.

The meeting was set up through Theresa McLaren, whose son, Matthew, plays hockey in the same league as Robidas’ son, Justin. Matthew is a second-grader at Marion Elementary, and attended the assembly. Mathew said he was a big Dallas Stars fan, and that Robidas was his favorite player.

“He plays defense like me, and he’s also an alternate captain,” Matthew said. “That means he’s a really good player, and I want to try and be like him.”

McLaren thought the meeting would be good for the kids, not only to learn about hockey, but to also learn how important it is to have good sportsmanship and be a good teammate.

“It’s great for him to come out and let the children know that although he plays hockey, being a good person, a good sport, a good teammate and a good friend are all really important, as well,” she said.

After the question-and-answer session, Robidas sat at a desk and signed a player card for each child at the assembly, as they waited in line. He even gave a stack of signed cards to the teachers for the students who were absent.

“This is a very special event,” McLaren said of Robidas’ visit. “They’ve never had anybody of his stature come here. We’re really excited to have him.”

Both McLaren and Robidas agreed that while Allen is a very good sports town, hockey is just now starting to make itself known in the area. They both hoped the defenseman’s appearance would help jumpstart that trend.

“If you can grow some fans here, it’s better for the team, better for the league, and it’s always good to spread awareness around the area,” Robidas said. “Some of those kids didn’t know about hockey and now they might want to know a little more and maybe they’ll be interested. Maybe some of those kids will say to their parents, ‘Hey, I want to play hockey,’ you never know.

“If one or two of those kids decide to play hockey because I came here, that’s a pretty big deal.”

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