Dallas police officer Frank "Timbo" Duncan has been working Dallas Stars games from day one. He'll tell you it's not so much a job, but more like hanging around with family. And how much he means to that family hit home on the darkest day of Duncan's career in law enforcement.
July 7, 2016. Duncan was working in downtown Dallas when a gunman ambushed police, killing five officers and wounding nine other officers and two civilians.
"It was the worst day of my 28 years on the police department," Duncan said.
And he was touched by the concern and support from his Stars family. As that night's events unfolded, his phone began to fill with messages from his own family and others, including those he gotten to know over all those years working Dallas Stars games.
"I had to turn my phone off. It was vibrating every couple of seconds," he said. "I turned it back on when the dust settled and everybody from Brett Hull to fans who have been season ticket holders that know me and I know them. Everyone was concerned and checking on me. You don't realize how many people's lives that you touch. When something like that happens you realize, wow, they do care about you. It was pretty enlightening and neat that they reached out and checked on me."
Duncan's been working Stars games since the team started playing in Dallas in 1993. He was one of two groups of officers initially working games, and the Stars eventually settled on one. Duncan was in both groups, so his odds of making the cut were pretty good. He's still working the games, patrolling the suite levels at American Airlines Center these days.
"My routine is to walk around and let everyone know that I am here, say hello," he said. "And they are all really good folks who work for the arena. We're here if they need us, but there are not a whole lot of problems. We are very fortunate."
He's met a lot of people over the years, including plenty of players. And there are many great memories. The Stanley Cup in 1999, of course, stands out. There was a generous offer from Hull, who invited Duncan to a victory celebration.
"[He] told me to bring my boys by his place," Duncan said. "I coached a baseball team, and all the coaches, wives and kids went over, and he let us take pictures with the Stanley Cup and him. Super, super nice guy."
And there was a nice personal touch from Mike Modano when Duncan wasn't working Stars games because the league shut down due to a lockout.
"Mike Modano actually came down for my birthday and bought me lunch at Eatzi's in the West End, which was pretty neat. He's a great guy," Duncan said.
And Modano feels the same way about the affable Duncan.
"He always brought a smile to your face," Modano said. "I always had his number. He was there working the games, walking out to the car and talking about the games. Loved him. He was just a great guy. Loved having him around. I wish I had treated him more because he always looked after me and he always had my back. That whole department, the DPD, treated us well."
There's more to Duncan than just his work at Stars games. He's a good cop. It's a job he wanted to do since he was a kid growing up in El Paso. Duncan, who joined the DPD in March 1989, has earned a Life Saving Award, three Certificates of Merit Awards, a Certificate of Civic Achievement Award and 72 personal commendations during his career.
Earlier this year, he was named the 2016 Cops' Cop by the Dallas Police Association. The Cops' Cop is an award to honor Dallas' finest for their outstanding service to the community, both on and off duty. The DPA recognized Duncan for his work in Dallas' Central Business District that has resulted in a reduction in crime in the downtown area. And for his work in his community, where he is a volunteer coach for baseball and serves as the announcer for home high school football and baseball games and has done other charitable work including serving as Santa Claus for a holiday in the park event.
Duncan was caught off guard when he was announced as the 2016 Cops' Cop winner. He should have listened to his wife, Norma, who told him he should prepare a few remarks just in case. He didn't. And he didn't expect to see his two sons, Timothy and Stephen, in the crowd as he walked up to accept the award. They came from out of town, one driving in from Texas State University in San Marcos and the other flying in from Connecticut where he is attending the Coast Guard Academy.
"That was my award. My boys were here," Duncan said. "As a father, your two boys standing up there with you at the podium, there's not a better feeling. Of course, having my wife there, but having my two boys there, I felt invincible."
As for being recognized by his peers, that was special as well.
"I was very honored by it. I had no idea I was going to win it. Still speechless now and I was then," Duncan said. "We don't accept awards very well. Most cops, we don't like to talk about ourselves, and I don't either. We do the job because we enjoy doing what we do. I don't do it so someone can say you did a good job. I do it because I enjoy doing what I do."
And that includes working Dallas Stars games.
"It's a good deal. A lot of fun. A lot of good memories," he said. "I've met a lot of great people."
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.