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Ralph’s Top Ten Reasons to look forward to the Next Decade

by Ralph Strangis / Dallas Stars

So often the end of an era – such as a decade or century – tempts us to look back.  There always the obligatory “Top Tens” that are produced.  In sports these lists usually include past heroes and their accomplishments.

This time around I’m breaking with tradition.  And while I’m so proud to have been a part of this organization for 20 years and have a strongbox of vivid memories, I’m excited about what’s ahead and I want to look forward. 

Here then, from number 10 to number 1 – are my “Top Ten Reasons” for all of us within the organization, and for all the fans to look forward to the next ten years.

# 10 – Ralph & Razor
Yes this is a bit self-serving – but we’re going to be here for a while yet to celebrate the great moments with you and help hold your hands through the growing pains.  Razor and I have been together since the start of the ’96-97 season (and I should mention most of our fine crew has been around just as long) and have had a terrific time watching it all happen with you.  Yes, at least in my case, the hair has thinned, and our brains go flaccid from time to time, but gang, we’re all you got – so continue to enjoy what we like to call “broadcast magic”.

#9 – Ceremony & Celebration
Appropriately this is NUMBER 9.  Mike Modano is nearing the end but we’ll throw a party like you’ve never seen when he gets going with the next phase of his life.  The organization has created the “walk of legends” and we’ll be enshrining more of your favorite Stars with great pomp and circumstance.

#8 – The NHL’s continuing Evolution
Giving credit where it is due, the NHL has done a good job since the lockout making the product on the ice more fan-friendly.  Hey – shootouts are fun (unless you’re the 09-10 Stars but I digress…) and the game has opened up a bit.  Scoring is up – the new crop of Superstars is terrific – and the Winter Classic is a hit, and not just among hockey fans.  Yes they have work to do – but the league has shown progress – and that’s a very good sign.

#7– The Texas Stars
The Dallas Stars have gone from having NO AHL affiliate to having arguably the best situation possible to develop and evaluate talent.  Their operation and facilities are first-rate.  And to be able to have everyone playing the same system, and with call-up’s a short drive away – the Stars are poised to keep reloading.

#6 – Metroplex Hockey & Texas Hockey Stars
If you had told me 20 years ago that I would be coming with the North Stars down to Dallas, and that the Stars would help build the area into a thriving hockey community I would have thought you had taken one too many pucks to the head.  But here we are.  Thousands of kids and hundreds of adults play the sport, mostly at Dr Pepper Star Centers and our kids are competing with the best in North America.  Soon more of them will be drafted into the NHL – and perhaps – there will be a superstar or two in the group – stay tuned…

#5 – Ownership
The Dallas Stars have stayed competitive largely due to the commitment of Tom Hicks.  Over the years he has always said “OK” when the Stars were trying to get to the next level.  The Stars, under Tom Hicks, are still the most recent Metroplex professional sports team to win a major championship – and we’ll put our record up against anyone locally since Mr. Hicks has been at the wheel.  Yes we’re having some rough financial times right now – but I believe that things will get sorted out – and the Stars will soon be able to add to an already young, strong, and emerging core group of players.

#4 – Mo & Lehts

The two “old dogs” can still dial it up.  Yes – not as often – but there are nights when the magic is still there.  To have two guys like that helping show the younger players what it’s supposed to look like is an advantage that not everyone has.  Many of the Stars current ‘kids’ idolized one – or the other – or both growing up.  Now they get to watch them every day.  And so do we.  And I’m thrilled that we’ll open the new decade with both Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen.  Gang – just enjoy it every night while it’s still here.

#3 – Veteran Assets
The Stars have several players in the prime of their career (like Brad Richards, Stephane Robidas, Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro and Steve Ott).  Their depth up front is a real strength and has already proved difficult for opponents to handle.  It gives the coach and the GM options.

#2 – The Kids are ‘More than Alright’
I haven’t been this excited about a group of young Stars – well – ever.  Loui Eriksson is a real player – and James Neal is “The Real Deal”.  How about 20 year-old Jamie Benn?  He’s 20 for crying out loud and on a lot of nights he looks like the best player on the ice.  Throw Tom Wandell, Nick Grossman, Mark Fistric and a couple more names you’re just learning or don’t know yet into the mix – and it’s going to be really fun.

#1 – Joe Nieuwendyk
He is one of the best people I know – and I’m proud to call him my friend.  He’s smart, thoughtful, sincere and deliberate, and with three rings from three different teams in three different decades, it’s a pretty good bet that the fourth is around the corner.  Be excited Stars fans – and be patient.  It took Bob Gainey 9 years from the day he was hired to build what was finally a champion.  I bet on him back then to be a success (the Cup was a wonderful bonus) – and I’ll bet on Joe now to give you a team worth getting behind now.

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