The Dallas Stars are heading out for another road trip, and that means it is time for another homecoming for a member of the organization. This time it is forward Shawn Horcoff, who will return to Edmonton to play against the Oilers on Wednesday for the first time since being traded to Dallas.
“It’s going to be emotional,” Horcoff said. “I looked at it on the schedule when it first came out, but I haven’t thought about it too much. But in the last week it popped up with questions here and there.”
Horcoff had been an Oiler his entire NHL career until the Stars acquired him in July for defenseman Philip Larsen and a seventh round pick in 2016. He spent 15 years in the Oilers organization, which drafted him in the fourth round of the 1998 NHL Draft. He played 796 games with Edmonton over 12 NHL seasons, became the team’s captain in 2010 and ranked in the top ten in franchise history in both goals and points when he left.
There were 35 playoff games during his time in Edmonton, and those were some of his best memories. The Oilers made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, losing in seven games to a Carolina team that featured a couple of Horcoff’s current teammates – Ray Whitney and Erik Cole.
“I think the Cup run, losing in Game 7 to a couple of guys in here, that is it by far,” Horcoff said of memorable moments in Edmonton. “Other than that, those playoff series against Dallas (2001 and 2003) were fond memories. And the times there, made a lot of great friends. It’s a blue collar town but, man, they love hockey up there, and when you are winning there and playing well, it’s a good place to play.”
But in Horcoff’s final years in Edmonton, the Oilers weren’t winning. They were in the middle of rebuilding and those were challenging times for Horcoff, who became expendable because of the team’s youth movement.
“The last four or five years have been extremely difficult there, but we were going through a rebuilding process. Being the captain, there can be some real tough nights, but I feel it made me stronger as a player,” Horcoff said. “But it’s all I know. They gave me a chance to come into this league. I played every line and every position pretty much on that team, and went from being a guy that played six to eight minutes a night to a top line guy. I owe them a lot. My family owes them a lot of thanks for the opportunity that I got there. But it was time for something new.”
And that something new was Dallas, but there were challenges there as well. There was an adjustment to playing with the Stars, finding a role with a new team. Almost a quarter of the way through the season, the comfort level is starting to come for Horcoff, who has 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 17 games.
“The last four or five I’ve felt a lot better. I’m playing the way I feel like I can and I’m contributing, and playing in all situations and we’ve been getting some team success, which is nice,” he said. “It was tough early. I hadn’t been through it before. Even though I had been around the game a long time, it was new. … You don’t know your place; you don’t know where you fit. I played some wing, which I hadn’t played in a while and I was trying to find my role. I think that is starting to figure itself out a little bit. … It was a change, even as easy as they’ve made it here. The guys have been great and I am comfortable. My family loves it here and I love it too.”
And he loved his time in Edmonton, too, and his return there for Wednesday’s game will give him a chance to turn the page.
“Fifteen years is a long time,” he said. “It’s going to be nice to get in there, fly in the night before, have a dinner, play the game and we’re out of there. It will be some good closure.”
Quotable: Shawn Horcoff on the Oilers
Here is what Stars forward Shawn Horcoff had to say about this season’s Edmonton Oilers, who are last in the Western Conference with a 4-13-2 record.
“I feel for them right now, what they are going through, the struggles they are going through,” Horcoff said. “I really do wish them well. I still watch. I want them to win, except against us. Right now I don’t have to worry about them too much (in the standings), so it is a little bit easier for me to cheer for them. It’s going to be emotional (going back to Edmonton).”
This story was not subject to the 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.