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'Big brother' Fiddler helping guide, support Stars in postseason

The former Dallas and Nashville player is 'having a lot of fun' in his new role as organizational coach

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was just two years ago that Vernon Fiddler was playing in the Stanley Cup Final in this building.

The scrappy, versatile forward was finishing up a 14-year NHL career and helped the Nashville Predators get four rounds deep before they succumbed in seven games to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins. That's one of the talents the 38-year-old Fiddler brings to the Stars' coaching staff as they try to forge their own history this season.

"He's the big brother, y'know, where the rest of us are more of the villains -- the bad dads. He's good at that," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said of Fiddler, who is listed as an organizational coach.

"Because he was such a good teammate and a good leader, he knows how to support the players and let us know who might be hanging their heads, who might need a pep talk, things like that."

Fiddler does a lot of work with faceoffs on the ice during practice, and also works with anything a player wants to work on. During the game, he's in the press box and on the headset to assistant coach Stu Barnes, who is on the bench. He delivers information and the coaching staff then reacts to it.

Video: Bogorad, Razor give thoughts on Stars after Game 2

"We have such a great coaching staff -- Monty, Stu, Rick Bowness, Todd Nelson -- so whatever I can add is what I want to do," Fiddler said. "I've learned so much from them, and I hope I can help in any way I can."

Fiddler is in a good position. He played five seasons with the Stars, and helped them through their last playoff round in 2016, so he knows Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg. He also played 2016-17 with the Devils and Predators, finishing his career with 877 regular season games and 51 more in the playoffs.

Fiddler started his career as an undrafted free agent, working his way up through the Nashville organization and played nine seasons either in the minors or the NHL with the Predators before moving on to Arizona, Dallas and New Jersey. So ending his career in a long playoff run in 2017 with the Predators was fitting.

"This was a great place for me, and that was a great opportunity for me, and I'll always be thankful," Fiddler said. "They've done such a great job at every level here and I have so much respect for them, and it is good to think back to that run.

"It was really special."


Now, of course, the Stars hope they can use Fiddler's history with his former teammates in this first-round series.

"He has great knowledge of their players and who makes them tick," Montgomery said. "He knows who the heartbeat of that team is, and that helps us in our preparation."

Still, the real job is simply helping the Stars get better. Fiddler said he enjoys interacting with the players and just had a nice talk with Seguin on Friday.

"I feel like I'm just here to help in any way I can, chat with the guys, talk through stuff, whatever I can do to help," he said. "Seggy came to me today and needed some help on a couple of things, and I just try to give him some ideas that could help, and that was it. It's simple stuff like that."

Of course, as simple as it is, Fiddler knows it's complicated and important. He said he has watched the Stars coaching staff at work and learns something new every day.

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm2: Seguin, Benn connect for opening tally

"Jim Nill gave me a great opportunity to come and work with them at training camp, and that really helped me," Fiddler said. "I got to see what it was like to be out there in a different role, and I really liked it. It gave me something to look forward to. So, now, being able to help here, I'm excited.

"It's been a great learning experience. I definitely didn't know how much went into it."

Kind of like being a player.

"Most games, you wish you were still out there. That first game of the playoffs, it's such a long day, and you just wanted to be putting on the blades," Fiddler said of his transition into a different career. "But there's a lot of pressure in the press box too, and so you get a little bit of that same feeling as when you were playing.

"It's fun, I'm having a lot of fun."

For complete postseason coverage, visit Stars Playoff Central.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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