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Broten Savoring Simple Life in Wisconsin

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

Neal Broten’s hockey resume is quite impressive. His accolades include being a member of Team USA’s historic 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team that won the Gold Medal at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics, playing for a Stanley Cup-winning team in 1995 in New Jersey, racking up 923 points in 1,099 and being inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

But those achievements only scratch the surface of what Broten was able to accomplish during his 17 seasons in the NHL. The 42nd overall pick in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, he made his debut with Minnesota during the 1980-81 season and played three games for the North Stars just months after starring for the University of Minnesota.

He was also part of the final year in the Twin Cities and the first year in Dallas before being traded to the Devils in February 1995. He returned in 1997 and finished his playing career with 20 final games in Big D.

Even 14 years after his retirement, he still remembers his time in the Metroplex fondly.

“It was a wonderful time. Leaving Minnesota, where I grew up and pretty much played my whole life through youth, high school and college, the team was based there. I was with the Stars for 13 years,” Broten said. “It was kind of nice. The Dallas people accepted us and it was a great place to play hockey.”

However, that doesn’t mean when he learned about the impending move to the Lone Star State that he wasn’t at least a little bit skeptical of how hockey might be received here.

“I said Dallas? I remember on the Olympic Team we played in Fort Worth against the minor league team there. Moving from Minnesota to Dallas was a pretty drastic change but the weather was great there,” Broten said. “The people were awesome and we had a good time. I enjoyed every minute of it. My wife did too. She had horses and everything worked out well.”

Any reservations he had about the move to Texas were quickly dispelled when he and his teammates saw how well they were being received in their new home. In fact, this Stars legend continues to be amazed at how much hockey has grown in Dallas Fort Worth at every level since the Stars’ 1993 arrival.

“It was amazing. We lived in Hackberry Creek, just outside of Irving. Just the kids rollerblading down the street [was great],” Broten recalled. “When we first got there, there were no kids rollerblading. Then, we saw street hockey, rollerblading and the rinks started popping up recently. When we left, every weekend there were kids playing, skating on rollerblades and the rinks started popping up. You knew that hockey was there to stay.”

After leaving Dallas, he played in New Jersey and Los Angeles before returning to Big D to conclude his career skating for the same organization he broke in with nearly two decades prior. But once he hung up his skates, he was honored by the organization as his No. 7 was retired and continues to hang in the rafters of the American Airlines Center as a reminder of what a great player he was during his time as a Star.

Like any player who has been so honored, it’s clear he takes great pride in having his number retired and hanging in the upper level of the American Airlines Center.

“Well, it makes you feel like you did something or accomplished something in your career,” Broten said. “I just feel very fortunate and honored that my jersey was retired there in Dallas. It’ll be there probably forever, so it’s a pretty special thing not just for myself but for my wife and kids and mom and dad who spent a lot of time driving me back and forth to the rink for a good part of my career and everybody else that had a big influence on my career. I feel very honored.”

By the time he called it quits in 1997, he had amassed some pretty solid numbers-289 goals and 634 assists for 923 points in 1,099 career contests. He realizes his final point total might have been much higher were he not to play as a more defensively-oriented player the last part of his career. But he was never a player concerned with his own numbers. No, he was more focused on the team and the entire group being successful.

“I started out as kind of an offensive player playing on an offensive line my first year. My first few years, Dino Ciccarelli and Tom McCarthy were two excellent wingers who could score. Tommy could score and was an excellent playmaker,” Broten recalled. “We produced a lot of points.”

But his reputation as an offensive force then took a backseat to something else for several seasons.

“Then, [Bob] Gainey or Pierre Page came in [to coach the North Stars] and I got put in a defensive role. It was kind of challenging although I did like to produce offense, which I thought I was still capable of at the time but there were more important things,” Broten said. “In hockey, it’s totally a team game. That’s what I primarily did my last five or six years. It hurt my point totals as far as career points but I never really looked at goals and assists. I was always a team player in a team game and playing with the guys coach put me with. That’s kind of what I did.”

Since retiring, he has gotten away from the game almost entirely. He lives with his family in Wisconsin and works with wife Sally in her horse reining business. His life after hockey is definitely a huge difference than how things were compared to when he was lacing ‘em up, but it’s obvious the former NHL standout is living what he considers the perfect life.

“I’ve got a nice, simple life which I really enjoy. We probably have about six horses here. We were up to 40 horses about six or eight years ago but we sold some,” Broten said. “Feeding horses, mowing grass, fixing fences, running to grab something, going with Sally to horse shows, staying in the trailer at a campsite [is what I do]. She goes and rides horses during the day and I might go golfing. That lifestyle fits me perfectly. It’s simple. It’s low key and something I really enjoy doing. My wife really loves the horses and she stuck with me through 17-18 years of playing pro hockey, so this is the least I can do for her.”

But one thing he doesn’t do much of in his free time is watch a lot of hockey.

“No, not so much anymore. Most of the guys that I played with or knew that played aren’t playing any more,” Broten said. “I’ve kind of stepped back from that although I do catch a playoff game every once in a while here and there but for the most part, it doesn’t really blow my dress up anymore. I did it, went through that with guys I really enjoyed doing that with and now they’re pretty much gone. I think Mike [Modano] played with Detroit last year but other than that, he’s the last guy that I played with. Every once in a while, I see him on TV but I just don’t know any of the guys that are playing anymore, so it doesn’t really interest me that much.”

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