As next week’s NHL All-Star game approaches, I think back to last season in Dallas and realize this:
Atlanta has quite an act to follow.
The Dallas Stars, American Airlines Center, the NHL and the city of Dallas put on heck of a show at last year’s all-star game, and even some 12 months later you all have plenty of reason – still -- to be proud.
The celebration of “A Generation of Stars” was a great reminder of recent hockey royalty and a memory jogger for just how great some of our recently retired superstars were. Not sure if it was just me, but Mark Messier looked like he could still lace ‘em up and be a force on the ice if he wanted to.
The red carpet event, which went down on Tuesday, added a real Hollywood feel to the event, despite the fact we were thousands of miles from the “city of angels.” It was also a great opportunity for Dallas to show off the newly developed “South Plaza” at American Airlines Center. We’ve seen that area continue to grow, and there may not be a more sensory-pleasing electronic show anywhere in Texas than the view down there.
And of course, how could we forget the game? As always, it was a game designed more for the skaters than the netminders, but Dallas’ own Marty Turco made all-star history --- and earned friends and admirers throughout the television business – by wearing a remote microphone and actually talking back to the Versus broadcast crew during the game. Leave it to the personality-rich Turco to make that high-scoring affair even more compelling on television.
What stood out to me most, however, was how much of a thrill it was for the fans of Dallas to get to watch their players, and give them the biggest of all ovations, at the game and during the skills competition. Watching Turco stand out during the shootout competition, followed by defenseman Philippe Boucher’s third-place performance in the hardest shot contest – all to huge pops from the Stars fans who were able to grab a ticket – was the highlight of the week for me. At that moment, I took on the belief that every city and building should get the All-Star game at some point. Every fan base deserves the opportunity to see, and cheer for, its players in such a setting.
Atlanta – enjoy the show, and make the most of it. This is your chance to shine.STARS FOR ALL-STARS
Speaking of the all-star game, I’m thinking they should add a skills competition event this year, considering the presence of Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov.
The event? Call it “the home run pass.”
It’s real simple. Dump a puck behind the net, and a player must turn and, from his own goal line, fire a breakout pass to a teammate for a breakaway chance as the teammate jumps on for a line change at the far blueline. You could set up eight pylons on the ice (representing players), and the outlet pass would have to split between them.
Even the world’s worst gamblers would drop their whole stash on Zubov in that one. For my money, he’s the best in the world at making that pinpoint pass through traffic.
As excited as I am for Zubov to play in his fourth all-star game, I’m equally thrilled that the Stars are getting to showcase one of their great draft choices in recent years as well with Matt Niskanen’s addition to the Western Conference YoungStars squad.
Though just 21 years old, Niskanen – the 28th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft – is showing a maturity beyond his years during this, his rookie season. The Luke Skywalker to defensive partner Zubov’s Obi Wan Kenobi, the force is obviously strong with this one as well. Niskanen seems to soak up everything he can possibly learn from Zubov, and like his future hall of fame partner, panic does not seem to be in his vocabulary. Calm, cool and collected, Niskanen leads the Stars and is second among NHL rookies with a +13 rating.
Here’s looking forward to many, many years of stellar play by Niskanen on the Stars’ blueline. It definitely appears we got a keeper here.WHO’S MISSING?
While thrilled at Zubov’s and Niskanen’s addition, one has to wonder how neither Mike Ribeiro
nor Brenden Morrow
squeezed into a roster spot.
Those two, playing on Dallas’ top line, have been the Stars’ two best forwards all season. Ribeiro leads the Stars with 49 points, and Morrow – the hardest-hitting Star – is second on the team in points (42) and leads Dallas in both shots (130) and hits (145).
Here’s hoping that some point, soon, each of these guys gets a chance to show they belong with the NHL’s best in an all-star contest.GOODBYE, GOOD FRIEND
The Stars lost a member of the family this week, and much too early, with the passing of Matt McKee.
The team’s 32-year old Director of Ticket Operations was a tireless worker – but much more than that, he was a good friend, to anyone who ever crossed his path. A loving husband and father, Matt was kind, generous and accommodating of any request. He fulfilled each one without question or complaint, assuring you it wasn’t any bother at all – even if it was.
I never heard anyone have a cross word about Matt McKee, and I never heard him offer ill will to another. There aren’t many people I can honestly say that about. If you didn’t know Matt, you certainly missed out. If you did know him, consider yourself lucky -- your life is better for it. A gentleman in every sense of the word, he’ll be missed, immensely.
Godspeed, my friend.