Pat Verbeek’s time in Dallas will always hold a special place in his memory. After all, it was as a member of the 1999 Stars that he won his only Stanley Cup as a player. Sure, he did leave for Detroit the following year but the talented right winger returned to Big D for one final season in 2001 and retired a Star in 2002.
Since hanging up his skates, he has worked as both a broadcaster and scout. He was behind the mike for the Red Wings, who also gave him his first NHL scouting gig. After several seasons with Detroit, he moved to Tampa Bay and just completed his first season as the Lightning’s Director of Professional Scouting.
Verbeek first came to Big D in 1996 and even though it’s been a few years since he last skated in front of the Dallas fans, those great times are never far from his memory.
“Well, they were very special, very special years. When I first arrived there, it was kind of neat how the whole team put the focus on winning and how it all came together. It took us a while to learn how to win and how to win under pressure,” he said. “The year that we won the Cup, that was the year that we put it all together but that was part of a learning process. We did it. That was a necessary process but it was a fun process at the same time. Very special when I look back on it, the only time I ever won a Stanley Cup as a player, so very special.”
After two seasons as a Red Wing, he knew his time in the NHL was drawing to a close, so when the chance to retire in Dallas materialized, it was an opportunity he was ready to take full and complete advantage of.
“I loved living there. I really enjoyed the whole Texas and Dallas scene or area. I loved the people there,” Verbeek said. “I think what was cool about that whole thing was hockey was just beginning to set foot in Dallas and seeing the fans really start to get on board with following hockey and become passionate fans, especially the year we won the Cup, it was incredible. That’s been something that I’ve really enjoyed watching. As a matter of fact, the whole grassroots program is a model that a town like us in Tampa could follow in how hockey was built from the ground up.”
His career totals were pretty impressive, 522 goals and 541 assists for 1,063 career points. He amassed those numbers with five different teams and his track record on the ice is something he continues to take much pride in.
“I think at the end of the day, looking back at it, I think it went fairly well for me. I think when I first started, one of the things I had going against me was my size and I had to overcome that. There was always talk that I might be limited in what I was able to do and I think I was able to overcome that through work ethic,” Verbeek said.
And since he did eclipse the 1,000-point barrier, some have to think a shot at the Hockey Hall of Fame might be in his future. He definitely hopes so.
“Well, I would like to think it is. I think when I first started this whole process, I never envisioned it happening. As numbers started to get put on the board in goals and points, when I reached that 500, it was a magical point. I never thought that might happen but it did,” Verbeek said. “Now, I guess I just have to kind of wait and see.”
The 2011-12 season marks his fifth in scouting, a gig he finds both rewarding and challenging all at the same time.
“What’s rewarding is being able to help shape a team or make a team good. I think that’s the rewarding part, being able to go out and watch hockey games and then being able to contribute from that aspect to mold a team,” Verbeek said. “The challenging part is probably making sure that you watch players and don’t make mistakes on them. At the end of the day, you’re going to make mistakes. I think the biggest challenge is trying to see players’ potential when it looks like they might not reach what you think they might reach or trying to see their potential before they get to that point.”
Tampa Bay comes off a season where they advanced to the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals before falling to eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston in a decisive Game Seven. And even though the Bolts put together a nice yet somewhat improbable run through the playoffs, this ex-Star knows his work is far from finished.
“It was fun. It was disappointing, losing Game Seven but it was a respectable run,” Verbeek said. “Now we know we’ve got to continue to build on the season we had last year.”