The 6th Annual Pros vs. Prospects game, pitting a squad of Dallas Stars and NHL Alumni against the NAHL’s Texas Tornado, the local Junior A-level hockey team, takes place on Sunday, March 18 at 5 pm at the 6,000-plus-seat Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco, which doubles as the Stars’ headquarters/practice facility and as the Tornado’s home rink.
With recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductees Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour both suiting up for the Alumni team, among many other big names from the past, the game represents a rare opportunity for area hockey fans to see them take the ice once again.
And with them facing off against the Tornado, comprised of young players aspiring to someday make it to professional hockey, the entire event exudes an intriguing aura of past versus future.
“I think it’s a great deal for a lot of reasons and it’s become a tradition,” said Tornado coach/General Manager Tony Curtale. “I think it’s great for my young players to get on the ice with those guys. It’s really nice for Joe and Eddie to play, for sure, and it’s just a great day for our young players, who are aspiring to be hockey players like that. And for the Metroplex, it’s just a great chance to see some of the best young guys on the way up and some of the guys who used to play.
“Hockey’s one of those sports that connects guys throughout their lifetime, one of the few sports you play where you can play it from the time you’re little until the time you’re old. And it’s a way to raise some money for charity, so it’s just a win-win situation all the way around.”
In addition to Nieuwendyk, currently the Stars’ General Manager, and Belfour, who were each key components of the organization’s 1999 Stanley Cup championship, other players on the Alumni roster include former Stars Jere Lehtinen, Bob Bassen, Landon Wilson, Gerald Diduck and Billy Huard.
Retired NHLers Dan Blackburn (2001-03 with the New York Rangers) and Steve Dykstra (1985-90 with Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Hartford) never played in Dallas but now live in the area and will also be in the lineup, with more players still to be announced.
“It’s a great opportunity to see Hall of Famers up a little closer, in a smaller venue,” noted Bassen, who skated in 117 regular season and 24 playoff games for the Stars from 1995-98 during a 15-year NHL career and now heads the club’s Alumni Association. “We’re playing against junior players that we were once, so it’s kind of that theme. It’s called Pros vs. Prospects, so in the past, it was anybody who played in the NHL, but our alumni here has included NHL alumni, like Stevie Dykstra, Danny Blackburn - they all really contribute to our alumni, so we include them in pretty much everything we do, unless it’s a real specific Star event. They’ve been great.”
Besides seeing the game itself, fans attending the event also get the opportunity to bid on several prized items up for auction, among them game-worn jerseys right off the backs of the Alumni players.
Also, several items will be auctioned off to benefit the Mike Modano Foundation, including a night at a Stars game in the Alumni suite with Modano himself, as well as a signed Modano jersey.
“The Mike Modano Foundation is going to get proceeds from a couple of items that people are going to have the opportunity to win and our Alumni is going to get some of the proceeds,” Bassen said. “There’s an opportunity to win a night at the Alumni suite at a Stars game with Mike. So that’s really interesting. Mike’s agreed to do that, and all the proceeds from that, and his jersey, will go to his foundation. And other than Mike’s jersey, a game-worn jersey will be auctioned, and the player who wore it will be standing there, and they’ll get a picture with that player and that jersey. They’ll sign it, too.”
As for the teenagers skating for the Tornado, who are currently third in the South Division and have already clinched a playoff spot with a 30-16-7 record, competing against guys who have gotten to where they want to go will undoubtedly endure as a lifetime memory.
“I just say, ‘Hey guys, just go have fun, this is a great game,’” Curtale said of what his message will be to his players before the game. “And, ‘No hitting today, make sure you pay respect to the guys, but enjoy it. And don’t be afraid to introduce yourselves and talk with them, it’s a unique opportunity and I want you guys to enjoy yourselves.’ That’s all we tell them.”
While the event was initially conceived during the NHL’s lockout that cancelled the entire 2004-05 season as a one-time chance for fans to see their Stars on the ice, the Pros vs. Prospects has thrived in the years since because of the strong relationship that the two organizations have worked hard to cultivate.
“We feel the same way they do, we want to give back to hockey, we want to keep building the fans at the grass roots level, it just really complements each other,” Curtale said of how the Tornado and Stars share not only a facility but similar goals regarding promoting and growing the game. “It’s the same philosophy basically, I think we’re just a bit of a bridge for them. And we are very close, we’re there every day, we see all those guys, we know them, we are very close to them.”
Tickets are available at the Dr Pepper Arena box office or by calling 972-335-9800, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
or through Ticketmaster here - TICKETS