Southlake's Jace Foskey has been a Dallas Stars fan since he can remember, attending games with his family at American Airlines Center. Next June, the 17-year-old Foskey hopes to be at American Airlines Center again. This time as a draft eligible defenseman when the 2018 NHL Draft comes to Dallas.
"Having the draft here is going to be great for Dallas, getting the exposure and hopefully to increase hockey in Texas," said Foskey. "And having the possibility of being drafted in the hometown is unimaginable."
Foskey plays for Tri-City in the USHL and has committed to play college hockey at Harvard. He and forward Ryan O'Reilly, who is also from Southlake and will be draft eligible next summer, were on hand Saturday night at Reunion Arena Park when the NHL, City of Dallas, and Stars announced the draft coming to Dallas next June 22-23. Both young players, who grew up playing hockey in the DFW area, are proof of how much hockey has grown since the Stars arrived in Dallas in 1993.
"Seeing this event and the turnout, it is just so cool. To have the draft in our hometown and to be drafted by any team would be amazing," said O'Reilly, who plays for Madison in the USHL and has committed to the University of Denver.
This will be the first time Dallas has hosted an NHL Draft and the first time the city has hosted a major NHL event since the 2007 All-Star Game was played at the AAC. Bringing the draft to Dallas took two years of work and the timing was important. The Stars wanted the 2018 draft as another key event in their 25th anniversary celebration.
Video: Dallas to host 2018 NHL Draft
"We just worked really hard with the league and got out ahead of all the other teams that wanted to host this event. It's a big deal," said Stars president Jim Lites, who gave credit to team executives Jason Farris and Brad Alberts for a lot of the hard work. "We wanted to do it in our 25th year. It all came together. We're thrilled."
Landing the draft adds to what already has been an eventful offseason for the Stars, who hired a new head coach in Ken Hitchcock and added goaltender Ben Bishop, defenseman Marc Methot and forwards Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal. They landed the third overall pick in the draft lottery, and then grabbed some top prospects at the draft, including defenseman Miro Heiskanen, goaltender Jake Oettinger and forward Jason Robertson.
"We're having a pretty great summer," Lites said. "After that awful season we had last year, everything seems to have gone right. It's just another string in that event to keep that momentum going."
The draft will bring some momentum to the local economy as thousands of people pour into Dallas and spend money.
"It's about money, and that's why we are usually happy," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said with a laugh. "We're talking 6,000 rooms are going to be booked, like tomorrow, because of this."
Rawlings estimated an economic impact of $14 million for the city.
The NHL is happy to bring the draft to Dallas, which has been a major success story for the league. The Stars have won on the ice, including the 1999 Stanley Cup, and helped grow the game in Texas.
"[The Draft] is significant for Dallas and it's significant for the National Hockey League," said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. "Dallas is really a trailblazer in terms of new markets, non-traditional hockey markets having success. I am not sure we would be where we are today without the success of the Dallas organization."
And now the Stars will get one of the league's top events, and for a weekend next June Dallas will be the center of the hockey universe.
"It's a celebration of the achievement of the players and a look to the future," said Daly. "As Jim Lites said, there are no winners, no losers. It's a fun event for everyone. The kids love it, the fans love it and it is two days of celebrating the game."
It will be a chance to celebrate hockey in Dallas and how far it's come. Jace Foskey and Ryan O'Reilly are part of that success story, both growing up and honing their hockey skills in the Dallas area, where youth hockey has exploded since the Stars arrived. And both Foskey and O'Reilly hope the NHL Draft in Dallas will be a chance to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in their young careers by getting drafted where their journey began.
"I can't imagine," said Foskey. "It would be amazing."
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.