A recent essay contest run by the Dr Pepper Star Centers asked elementary school students to submit essays as to why their school should win a visit from a Dallas Stars player. Two fifth graders from Andrews Elementary in Plano, Jennifer Xia and Shachi Patel, were deemed the winners, so on Monday afternoon, Stars defenseman Trevor Daley
paid them a visit.
After presenting Xia and Patel with a gift bag featuring various Stars autographed items, Daley along with Star Center personnel worked with the two winners and several other students, showing them stick handling techniques and even taking shots with a street hockey ball at one of their classmates who had donned some goalie gear.
“Yeah, they’re not too bad,” Daley said of the skill he saw today from the kids. “The goalie was actually pretty good. She knew what she was doing.”
The 28-year-old defenseman then took questions from the students for about 10 minutes. Today’s event was a rousing success. Not only were the Andrews students enthusiastic, but many school staff members were donning Stars gear, which made for a nice way to spend part of their first day back from Spring Break.
Dr Pepper Star Center Senior Director of Hockey Programs Keith Andresen assisted with Monday’s event and couldn’t have been more pleased with how things turned out.
“You could see today here at the assembly where we had kids cheering for Trevor Daley
, kids excited about the sport and excited about the Dallas Stars. That’s really what it is, especially at this age group. We’re trying to build a passion in the kids that come out and play at our rinks,” Andresen said. “We want to build a passion for this sport and a love for this sport whether they can play when they get older we don’t know. But what we want to do now is get the grassroots level, get them back going and interested in the game.”
And it looks like the Stars have two of those young fans that Andresen speaks of in the winner’s of the essay contest.
“Yeah, I don’t play [hockey] but I watch [the games],” Patel said. “I like how they trust each other. They have to work as a team to win.”
Xia added: “I didn’t really expect to win. I just wanted to show why it was important to come to our school.”
Both students also wanted to thank Daley for taking time out of his schedule to come and spend part of his afternoon at their school.
“It was really important because he used his time, his own time to come out and talk to us,” Patel said. “So, yeah I was really happy.”
Xia said: “He was spending his own time and effort to come out so that was special.”
Doing appearances like this is nothing new for Daley, but he came away from Monday’s event quite impressed at what he had been a part of.
“This is great. I didn’t expect this. These kids were awesome,” he said. “It’s special. I have a young kid, so to come home every day and see how excited he is, it was the same thing walking in here.”
Growing up in Toronto, he admits he never had an NHL player visit his school, but he was surrounded by hockey almost everywhere he looked.
“No, I was never fortunate enough to do that but we had so much hockey growing up, that’s all you lived. Every corner there was an outdoor rink. There were so many arenas. You had a lot of hockey,” Daley said.
Part of today’s appearance was that Andrews Elementary received a full set of street hockey equipment from the Stars organization, a nice gesture on their part.
“You need a lot of assets to play hockey,” Daley said. “It’s not like football you just pick up and go out to the field or basketball. There’s a lot of things you need to play hockey and for the Dallas Stars to be doing this I think is a great thing.”
Monday’s event was part of an initiative by the Stars under new owner Tom Gaglardi to make the club and it’s players more visible in the community, something Daley and his teammates are more than willing to embrace.
“It’s huge. I think the Stars have made an effort to put us out there, put hockey out there to grow the game. To grow it you’ve got to start doing it with these kids. That’s where we all started, as young kids,” he said. “It’s a process and it’s good that we’re starting to do this.”
Daley added: “It’s such an enjoyable sport. It’s such a fun sport to play. It keeps the kids active. I’m a big believer in keeping your child active and into sports. Why not add hockey to it?”
And it wasn’t just the students who got a lot out of Monday’s appearance, the affable Dallas blue-liner also takes a lot away from such events away from the ice.
“This is something as a professional athlete, as a Dallas Star, is something that we get the benefit of. We get to come out here and put smiles on kid’s faces whether it’s something like this or going to a hospital and visiting kids, it’s special for us to do stuff like that,” Daley said. “So whenever the opportunity presents itself, I’m always available for it.”