Both from the fan’s perspective and from the point of view of the Dallas Stars Foundation, the 14th Annual Park Place Dealerships Casino Night event was the best one yet.
With all proceeds benefiting the Dallas Stars Foundation, the latest Casino Night was held Wednesday night at the elegant and spacious Park Place Motorcars Mercedes-Benz in Grapevine, raising more than $250,000. With over 600 people attending, selling out all of the event’s available spots, this Casino Night was enjoyed by more people and generated more money than any of the 13 that preceded it.
“This year’s Casino Night was exceptional.” said Lora Farris, Executive Director of the Dallas Stars Foundation. “From the amount of money raised, to the number of attendees and the fantastic Park Place venue, we couldn’t have asked for a more successful event for the Foundation. ”
For those fans lucky enough to be in position to bid, the quality of the live auction items available was outstanding, including such experiences as a trip for two to the 2013 NHL Winter Classic, dinner with Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk and his lovely wife Tina, a trip for two joining the Stars on a two-game road trip, and an experience for two accompanying the Stars to training camp next September in Boise, Idaho.
But even beyond all that, it was a great chance for Stars fans to play some blackjack, craps or roulette while mingling with their favorite hockey players, taking pictures with them, just talking to them in a relaxed setting, and/or procuring autographs.
“It’s a fantastic event. The players are so involved with the fans and it’s almost like they’re one of us,” noted season ticket holder Roy McClurg, who won two key auction items, the trip to next season’s Winter Classic (for $9000) and the dinner with the Nieuwendyks (for $8000). “They’re not like in other sports, they’re not the athlete that’s above everybody, they’re one of us. They want to be with us and that makes us want to give money to the Foundation, it makes us want to donate.”
“It’s wonderful, this is a great opportunity and it’s a lot of fun,” added rabid Stars fan Lucy Rovny. “Of course, it’s all about the charity and what a big plus that you get to hang out with such great players and support our local team that we love. That’s the best part.”
But it wasn’t just the fans that enjoyed the evening. Stars players, coaches and executives also clearly had a fun time, both while dealing at the poker tables and just getting the chance to hang out and talk with their fans.
“It’s always such a nice event, a classy event,” said Nieuwendyk, who attended the first few Casino Nights back in his playing days. “I think the players and the wives look forward to it. It’s a nice way to get out and mingle with the public, they always do a great job.”
“For a guy that spent six years in Vegas, it’s kind of fun to be behind the tables, I’m not losing my money any more,” joked Stars coach Glen Gulutzan, who served as coach/GM of the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers from 2003-09 and was enjoying his time dealing blackjack. “One of the biggest things we can give to our community is accessibility to our players. Our players like being here, they get to deal and meet people who are season ticket holders. It’s a real good thing, not only for the Foundation, but it’s a day away for the guys and it lets us connect with the fans.”
One of the biggest positives for the players, as Gulutzan noted, was just getting the chance to step away from a difficult stretch in the ongoing season, as the injury-depleted Stars find themselves in the midst of a dogfight for a playoff spot after two outstanding performances still resulted in a 1-0 loss to St. Louis Monday and 3-2 shootout defeat against Detroit Tuesday,
“We’ve had a couple of incredibly huge battles the last couple of games against two of the better teams in the league,” noted Nieuwendyk, “and I think it’s nice where you can just kind of relax and maybe take your mind off the game for a bit.”
“I’m dealing blackjack here and I’m not thinking about points in the standings and not looking at the scores on the ticker, so it’s a good getaway,” added Gulutzan.
Besides the stellar live auction items, plenty of amazing silent auctions were up for grabs, with available prizes including a Rolling Stones signed guitar, Stars season tickets, signed jerseys from not only every current Stars player, but also from past legends such as Nieuwendyk, Brett Hull, Mike Modano, and Jere Lehtinen (who was actually there, too). Additionally, there were signed jerseys from the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins as well as stars from other sports such as Texas Ranger Ian Kinsler, Dallas Maverick Jason Terry, and former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman.
Other fun goodies were awarded to raffle winners, such as a year’s worth of haircuts at SportsClips or a gift card to Top Golf, or even a Brenden Morrow
signed hockey stick, among many others.
“It’s always a surprise when you win stuff (in the silent auction),” noted Stars fan Rob Rothrock. “Last year, we got a call on three or four things that we had won and had a great time. There was a package that gave you a Porsche for a weekend and some tickets in the lower bowl and dinner to a restaurant and we loved it.”
As for the players and front office personnel who donated their time and energy to bolster the attraction of some of the prize packages, it’s yet another fun way to give back to the community and raise money for charity.
“I think everybody realizes that we have to do our part to reconnect with the fans and bring new fans to our team and our sport,” said Nieuwendyk, who also presented McClurg with a signed Hockey Hall of Fame jersey for winning the dinner out with him. “Our players recognize that and that’s why you see some of the gifts and the prizes and the going-out-to-dinners - it’s just allowing fans to get a little closer. The charity work that the guys do, the guys care, they do understand what they have to do in the community and this is another example of it.”
Another key element that helped make the evening a thorough success was the outstanding food provided by III Forks. With delicious Kobe beef sliders, yummy beef croustades, Ahi tuna nachos and the distinct III Forks salads, among other delectable treats, not to mention some excellent desserts, it was a great night to go off your diet.
“It’s been a partnership over a nice little time here,” noted Chris Vogeli, proprietor of III Forks and the mastermind/chef responsible for the evening’s mouth-watering food. “We’ve been hosting the monthly luncheons that the Foundation does - this is the first time we’ve done something this big with them, but we’ve done several events for the Stars Foundation and we’re just glad to help out.”
And of course, the event could not have occurred without the beautiful venue provided by Park Place Dealerships, which transformed its Mercedes-Benz showrooms and maintenance area into a stylish casino.
“The partnership between Park Place and the Dallas Stars has been a very long and good one,” stated Stephen James, General Manager of Park Place Jaguar in Plano and a key figure in making this evening happen. “This is the 14th year that we’ve done the Casino Night and it’s a great event. A couple of reasons why - one, it’s good for Park Place to be tied in with the Dallas Stars and the Dallas Stars Foundation. It’s good for our brand, but it’s also a way that we can give back to the community and by giving to the Stars Foundation. They give to a number of different charitable organizations, so we can touch so many lives with one great event like this.”
Over 500 people attended last year’s Casino Night event, which raised over $200,000 for the Dallas Stars Foundation, money that went to support local children’s charities that positively impact the lives of children through teamwork, interaction and education.
“Casino Night is the most anticipated Foundation event each season," said Farris. "We have fans who look forward to the event each year and are always eager to purchase tickets when they first go on sale. The event was held a bit earlier this year than in years past, but the timing made it a great way to kick-off the second half of the season.”
Still, as great as every other aspect of the experience was, the best part of Casino Night is the opportunity fans have to talk to their Stars’ heroes, who by all accounts, are also excellent people off the ice.
“That’s the nicest thing about this whole event, is that these guys are so very approachable and you realize what great people they really are in real life,” confirmed season ticket holder Tim Keenan. “They’re all very personable and it’s just wonderful to be able to talk to them. It’s wonderful, a terrific event. The Dallas Stars Foundation is a terrific foundation and I’ve got no problem donating money to that.”
“You get to hang out with all of the players,” said Rothrock of his favorite part of the night. “I tell my friends about this experience and I think they’re jealous. I think we’ve helped them raise attendance numbers just by word of mouth and the players are so fun and approachable. They look like they have fun. I go to a lot of charity events, and it’s not like any event I’ve gone to in the past, where some of the celebrities that are there, if there are any, are kind of stand-offish and in little crowds and they’re being handled by their agents and others. There’s another team in Dallas that I’ve gone to some charity events where their players are and it’s a totally different feel.”
Certainly no one who attended the event would ever accuse the Stars players of keeping their distance from the fans.
“The Stars players are the best,” said James of Park Place Jaguar Plano. “They’re the most down to earth, they’re fun, they get in and talk to everybody and when they are dealing, they really get into it, so it’s a lot of fun.”
“It’s fun and they seem to be having a good time,” McClurg added, regarding the players. “And my wife doesn’t even like hockey, but she loves this. She really got into it and you can take people who are not hockey fans and really get them into hockey when you do an event like this, so it’s fantastic.”
Friday night it’s back to the grind of the playoff chase when Tampa Bay invades the American Airlines Center (7:30 pm start, FSSW). But for one night, Casino Night was a fun diversion and raised a lot of money for a great cause.