During the off-season, Radek Dvorak
received a phone call. On the other end was none other than Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. He and Dvorak were teammates in Florida during the 2005-06 season and the two quickly developed a healthy respect for one another during their stay with the Panthers.
So when the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner for Dallas and 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee asked his ex-teammate if he would be interested in joining the Stars, the 34-year-old veteran immediately took him up on his offer.
“I know Joe from previous years, the kind of guy he is and the great job he’s done in his career and here. It was an easy decision for me,” Dvorak said. “When he offered me a job, I said yes because he’s a great person. He was a great player and is doing a great job here in Dallas. I’m very glad I’m here.”
The 10th overall pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by the Panthers, he has logged two stints in Florida and has also played in Edmonton, St. Louis and most recently was in Atlanta as he spent the second half of last season with the Thrashers after coming over in a pre-trade deadline deal with Florida.
And this fall will mark his 17th season in the NHL. He admits the time has flown but looking back, he realizes he has lasted this long by sticking to what is a very simple but highly effective approach to the game.
“My thing is I always go from year-to-year. I never look forward. I just look at the next game and that’s it,” Dvorak said. “I try to stay in shape and do my best to help the team. I take small steps. I know time flies. I remember my first game in the league but that’s how it is. I’ve worked hard to stay in this league and hopefully I can play a few more years.”
Even though he and Nieuwendyk were teammates with the Panthers, he came to a club where he basically didn’t know anyone on the roster, well almost. He and current Stars center Toby Petersen
were teammates with the Oilers during the 2006-07 campaign, times the Minnesota native remembers well.
“I looked up him a great deal during the year, year and a half when he was in Edmonton. He’s a calming presence and it’s always good to have those guys on the bench because hockey’s such an emotionally-charged sport,” Petersen said. “It’s good to have a guy who can bring things back down both with his behavior on the ice and his demeanor off the ice. He can kind of keep guys focused and keep us moving in the right direction.”
Despite not really knowing anyone on the Dallas roster except for his former Edmonton teammate, the transition has been a seamless one for someone who has logged over 1,000 games in the NHL since his debut.
“Great, it’s easy to come to a team like this. The guys are great. The coaches, management, everyone [have been great]. That makes it easy to adjust,” Dvorak said. “They’re a great bunch of guys. I’m just enjoying every day. My family is coming in soon and everything is on the right track. It was a brand new thing for me. I’ve been in the league so many years. I don’t mind coming to a new team. I’m kind of an easy guy to get used to. It was fine.”
He didn’t call Petersen to pick his brain about what to expect from the Stars coaches as well as from his new teammates but the Czech Republic product was contacted by a Dallas veteran during the off-season.
“[Robidas] called me during the summer telling me where everybody lives, what are the places to go see for living. We talked about kids since we both have kids but that’s about it,” Dvorak said. “We talked for about half an hour. It was nice to hear from someone with this team.”
Given that he inherited a roster that is for the most part fairly young, new Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan is glad to have a seasoned veteran like Dvorak on his roster.
“He brings versatility for us. He brings some speed to the table and he also gives us some depth. Devo can play on the first, second, third lines,” Gulutzan said. “He kills penalties, can contribute offensively. He just gives you that good depth and that’s important for us this year in what we’re trying to do.”
Dvorak agrees his impressive NHL resume, which includes 39 games of postseason experience, is the biggest thing he can offer the 2011-12 Stars.
“I bring experience. I’ve been through a lot. This is a very talented and deep team,” he said. “Hopefully I can bring speed, experience and help on the penalty kill. I want to be a good example.”
The Stars might be the fifth different club he has laced ‘em up for during his solid and productive NHL career but even he admits there is a buzz in the air about what this team could accomplish in the coming regular season.
“The energy is great. Everything has been clicking,” Dvorak said. “We have good chemistry here. I can see the excitement for the season coming up. I like all the new faces and know guys can’t wait to start the season right now. We’re playing well right now. We’re working on our systems. We’re practicing hard. I know this team will be good and possibly make the playoffs. The chemistry is here and that’s very important.”