NHL All-Star Celebration
HOCKEY WILL NEVER BE FOOTBALL. In Texas, at least, this truth is self-evident: No matter how many hockey fans rise up in defense of their sport (or write letters to a certain magazine’s editor decrying yet another football cover, as the case may be), the puck will never outrank the pigskin.
But hold on a sec. Before you go dismissing the icy pastime as nothing more than brawling on skates, there’s something you should know: Hockey is enjoying an unprecedented resurgence, and Texas is right in the middle of it. In fact, the NHL has picked our home state—and our home team, the Dallas Stars—to host this year’s All-Star Celebration. After surviving the longest lockout in professional sports history, which wiped out the entire 2004–2005 season, the left-for-dead league would have thrown an All-Star shindig last year, except the Winter Olympics got in the way. Now that the midseason tradition is being resurrected for good, hockey finally returns to full strength this month, and we’ve got front-row seats.
The impending All-Star circus is being hyped as a coming-out party for the “new” NHL, which prides itself on being more thrilling than ever (more scoring! More shoot-outs! More power plays!) and more evenly dispersed with talent, thanks to the magic of rule changes and an infamous salary cap, respectively. But the true aim of the three-day exhibition—with its fan-favorite SuperSkills competition (who’s the fastest skater of them all?), the Young Stars game (such studly Eastern Europeans!), and a tribute to some of the game’s all-time greats (is that Wayne Gretzky?)—is to bolster the league’s momentum, rewarding loyal devotees and luring in new ones with its obscenely talented roster. At this rate it’s going to be as popular as Dallas Stars center Mike Modano in a sorority house.
So, you might ask, of all the cities that have a pro hockey team, the pressure to prove that the sport’s mojo is back is on…Dallas? Well, while you were busy reading Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, ice rinks were springing up, youngsters were signing up, and minor leaguers were lacing up around the state. Ever since the Dallas Stars came to town thirteen years ago, the sport’s been quietly on the rise: In the Metroplex alone there are thousands of registered players, up from a few hundred, while across the state there are now busloads of high school squads, up from approximately zero. Everything’s up. And we still can’t wrap our minds around the fact that Texas has more professional teams than any other state.
What’s more, our home team is playing—and winning—with gusto these