Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk was navigating the hundreds of bodies in the lobby of the Cari Complex/McLaughlin Arena on the University of PEI campus on his way to his seat with the scouts and other hockey people this morning when he was stopped by young man.
“Mr. Nieuwendyk… can I have your autograph.”
“Of course” said the Stars GM, who was signing about the 10th of what would be several dozen autographs that morning. As he was signing the photograph, the young man, maybe in his late teens said, “Can I ask you a question?”
Joe, who is always so obliging said “sure”.
“How come you didn’t draft Fowler or Gormley instead of Campbell in the first round?”
I would venture to guess that pretty much no media member in Dallas (including me by the way) would have asked him that question. But that’s what happens when you come to a place like Charlottetown, PEI.
The city began working on bringing an NHL team here for training camp a few years back. They tried it with Tampa Bay, using the Brad Richards connection, but couldn’t get the Lightning to bite. A few years later here are the Dallas Stars. In speaking with delegates from both sides it is quite clear that Charlottetown wanted the Stars, and the Stars really wanted to be here.
Amanda Hamel’s day job is that of Communication’s Officer in the provinces Health Department, but she freelances and lends her charm and skill to help with projects like this. PEI and its townships have hosted some big events, and have stars of every kind come through here (currently George Wendt is appearing in “Hairspray” in the Charlottetown theater) but this – according to Amanda – is a “pretty big flippin’ deal”.
It is mutually beneficial. The Stars gain a wonderful team-building experience in a hockey-mad town, and the cities benefits are multi-faceted. Of course they gain some cache – not a lot of Canadian cities can claim “home to an NHL team’s training camp” – they gain the business that we bring – and the fun of having NHL Stars walking down their streets. But more importantly, according to Amanda – “our children get to get so close to guys they’ve only seen on TV and see that it is possible that if Brad Richards or other guys from small towns can make it – so can they.” She adds; “and even if they don’t make the NHL, this will give them all a jump start to work harder at whatever they’re doing”.
The Dallas Stars and the City are also partnering on some significant charity projects, with special announcements coming over the next couple of days.
They have been such wonderful hosts – and the trip so far has gone off without a hitch. Tonight, we’re going to the Murphy Community Center (think Church basement) for a big group dinner with some of the local organizers and citizens, who will sit side by side with NHL players and guys like me. I just hope I don’t get any questions about the draft…HILIGHTS FROM SCRIMMAGE/PRACTICE:Split squad scrimmage
– but the four big lines were –
18-91-21 (the Stars top line from last year immediately put together on day one this year)
10-63-27 (Jonathan Cheechoo on a tryout gets to get looked at with Ribs and Brenden – nothing much to notice other than Ribiero looked fast – he’s in great shape)
29-14-96 – (Benn starts in the middle but don’t be surprised if he gets moved to a wing)
20-23-16 – (Burrish with Wandell and Sutherby – a little something for everybody)Defense –
no real continuity from a season ago (yet) – they had them balanced on both sides. Guy to watch is Severin Blindenbacher, 27 year old Swiss born free agent. Played in Sweden (Farjestads) last season. We have a very good scout in Sweden (Rickard Oquist) who found him. They had him with Skrastins today – Blindenbacher is good puck moving defenseman – and is getting his feet wet. Probably won’t crack NHL squad yet – but he’s a guy to keep an eye on.
Kari looks big and is moving well in the net. Krahn has earned the right to compete for the backup job, and Raycroft is the guy who will be battling him for that chance. RALPH'S PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND DIARY - DAY ONE