Tag Archive: NHL


After having a few days to reflect on the 2011 Winter Classic and read others praises and criticism, I wanted to post a wrap up of my own. Aside from my own personal adventures below, this post addresses some of the things that I have heard since the event.

*Media outlets across the country have criticized Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau for saying that the game was the biggest thing next to winning a Stanley Cup. I am not sure many people, particularly fans of the winning team, who were there would disagree. Sure it was just a “regular season” game, but the atmosphere was so much more. Over 68,000 fans, including a LOT of people wearing the red and white were there to witness the late night spectacle. Especially when you come from a state where teams struggle to fill a regular hockey arena, to see a stadium brimming with fans who had come together, but were so divided, the night was truly magical. Even a Stanley Cup playoff game is going to have maximum in the neighborhood of 20,000 fans…there were over 3 TIMES that at the Winter Classic. It was huge.

*The quality of the ice was extremely poor. I felt like the temperature when the game started was actually perfect. Of course, the rain during the second and third periods was not ideal, but to see all of those people sitting in it really showed how dedicated the fans were to this event. I also heard that the television broadcast seemed to pretend the rain did not exist. I think this certainly could have been played up. The Winter Classic is about returning to the roots of the sport – celebrating the backyard pickup game on the pond. It seems that with the glitz of the NHL, many have forgotten that this game started out with less than perfect ice conditions. I’m pretty sure Ovechkin did not have a Zamboni hiding out in the garage of his backyard in Russia. The NHL is supposed to be the most skilled players of this sport. Sure the ice might have posed additional challenges, but these players are the best, they should be able to adapt to conditions. Also, the NHL tried to keep it fair, giving each team equal time on both ends of the ice. I was told that the viewers at home did not really see the switch in the third period.

*Camera angles on television were less than ideal. Having not yet seen the television broadcast, I cannot comment on this except to say that this game is held once a year. It is not like the camera guys have experience with this or a chance to practice. Also, the game time was moved on Friday. There was not a ton of time to make adjustments to accommodate glare or weather/ice conditions. I am sure there were lessons learned and things that could be improved, but a comment to me after the game was made by a friend that really hit home. This friend plays minor league soccer; he is not a hockey fan per se and he told me that he was watching the game on television and couldn’t imagine how great it must be to be there. This is what the Winter Classic should be all about – introducing new fans to the sport. Sure the Stanley Cup playoffs might be the true highlight of the sport’s premier games, but during that time the league is competing with NBA Finals for viewership. The Winter Classic has less competition, typically matching up only with college bowl games and other NHL games. I do think it would be in the league’s best interest, however, not to schedule any other games on New Year’s Day, so as to avoid potential conflicts.

*The Ovechkin/Crosby matchup and the Penguins/Capitals rivalry were overplayed.  As a Capitals fan, I know how bitter the rivalry between the two teams is first hand. While it is true that neither Ovechkin nor Crosby scored a point in this matchup, there is no denying the amazing accomplishments of both and how strangely parallel their careers are. Both players suited up in the NHL for the first time the same year, both have already had storied careers, and both of their teams are better when they are on the ice. I’m sure a lot of people were tired of hearing about the two players and I agree that the media could have focused on some other stories, but I think in some cases, they did a good job of promotion. In particular, the HBO special 24/7 covering both teams road to the Winter Classic was extremely well-produced and showcased some unlikely members of the team. For example, showing the recalling and sending back down of AHL players gave viewers a peek into the life of a prospect in these systems and interviewing Matt Hendricks up close after a nasty black eye, complete with stiches really demonstrated the toughness of some of these players.

*There are some that said this should be a day game and the NHL should have moved it to Sunday. I disagree. I think the game played under the lights was truly something special. It kind of gave me the feeling of being a kid and playing outside up until the very last possible minute, even though your parents were telling you it was time to come inside. It was like just that one time when they allowed you to stay out just a little past your bedtime because you were having so much fun. The Super Bowl is played at night and I think this is kind of the atmosphere that was present at Heinz Field. Also this was great since New Year’s Eve was the night before. So many revelers were out late and the 8 pm start time on Saturday allowed them to sleep in, enjoy brunch and then start tailgating in the afternoon. The build up to the event was just the right amount.

I hope the NHL continues to do the Winter Classic for years to come. I also hope that they do rotate the teams that are playing, regardless of home location so that everyone, both players and fans get the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful experience. And I hope they continue to play the game under the lights of the stadium. I know I will be there.

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I flew from Austin, Texas to Baltimore, Maryland on December 28, 2010 for what promised to be an epic hockey trip. The trip was my first return to the DC metro area since relocating back to Austin earlier in the year. Over the course of 7 days, I would be attending four hockey games, including the 2011 Winter Classic, a matchup between the Washington Capitals and their most hated rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins. In preparation for the trip, I had been watching the weather predictions like a hawk and things weren’t looking good. The latest forecast called for temperatures in the 50s and a high probability of rain. When I boarded the plane at Austin Bergstrom early Tuesday morning all I hoped was that they would not cancel the game.

My journey began with a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs between the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. Even without Jaroslav Halak, the goalie that stymied the Capitals last spring, the Canadiens posed a challenge for the boys at Verizon Center. Walking into the arena, memories came flooding back from the city that made me fall in love with hockey. While I’d been a casual Dallas Stars fan for years, it was not until I lived in DC that I developed a real passion for the sport. From even before the first notes of the national anthem, I scanned the crowd and saw a sea of red. Fans did not wait until the puck dropped at Verizon Center to show up, many of them were there early to catch warmups set to the tune of celebrity DJ Brett Leonhart’s soundtrack. It was great to be a part of the crowd again, cheering, “Let’s go Caps” along with the Horn Guy and Loud Goat. And yes, even screaming “Red” during the national anthem rather than “Stars.”

The game definitely delivered the excitement that was promised, with the Capitals shutting out the Habs 3-0. Varlamov earned the start in net for the home team and was sharp throughout the game. I got to connect with some great Caps fans I’d been chatting with via Twitter leading up to my trip and it was nice to be back in my second home for a little while. On Wednesday, I was able to pick up some gifts for friends back home in Texas at Kettler, including a Winter Classic jersey for myself. However, I struggled with how to customize the jersey, not really knowing who would be in net for the Capitals. The staff at KCI was so helpful and friendly and I even managed to run into someone that has followed me on Twitter since the Calder Cup finals last year. It really is a small world sometimes.

On Thursday we hit the road to Pittsburgh for an afternoon hockey double-header, first seeing a college game with RIT and Robert Morris College. My friend Chris is an RIT alum and was excited to see his boys in brown and orange take the victory. In addition, he was able to get some help from the RIT hockey team with “Project Vicarious Major,” an effort for a college fraternity buddy that is currently serving in Iraq. The whole hockey team posed with a photo of his friend Bill Bernhard in their locker room after the game.

Following the college matchup, the reigning Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears took on their rival, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. In a true goalie battle, the Bears earned the two points in the standings with a shutout at the hands of netminder Braden Holtby. The final score at Consol was 1-0 Bears over the Pens. As an added bonus, I was able to say hi to a couple of people I met during the AHL playoffs last year and the staff at Consol was quite helpful in making that happen. In case they had any doubt, I will say that the Hershey Bears are lucky to have John Walton as their play-by-play guy and it is fascinating to watch him call a game – one of the best in the business.

The next day was New Year’s Eve and it certainly turned out be one of the most special ones I’ve had in a few years. Honestly I’ve never put a lot of stock in ringing in the New Year, but this year was different. With the help of a few DC media people and the friends I travelled with, I managed to find a nice crowd on the Southside of Pittsburgh. Early we cheered on Team USA in the World Juniors as they cruised to a 2-1 victory over the Swiss. Goalie of the future for the Dallas Stars, Jack Campbell played an excellent game again and made some remarkable saves during the third to keep Team USA in the game. The chant of “Freedom” and cheers rang throughout the bar as USA scored the game winner.

Also throughout the night, Capitals fans made their presence known in the ‘Burgh, starting up chants of “C-A-P-S Caps, Caps, Caps!!” While a few Penguins fans at Smokey Joe’s answered back with “Let’s go Pens,” the visitors actually outnumbered the home team at several establishments. A funny moment of the night came when someone started a chant that all the patrons could agree with, “Flyers Suck!!” We rang in the New Year with friends, both old and new and somehow managed to finally make it back to our hotel room in the wee hours after midnight. Let’s just say I’m pretty sure I was not the only person that was happy that the game was pushed back to an 8 pm start time!

On Saturday, we continued to check the weather report and finally decided on what would be the appropriate layers for the first Winter Classic ever to be played under the lights of a football stadium. Walking over to Heinz Field, there was a buzz for blocks – fans chanting back and forth; vendors hawking t-shirts and other team gear; tailgaters wrapping up the party for the walk to the stadium. Heading into Heinz it was absolutely electric. I’ve been to a lot of sporting events in my life and this game to me truly had the feeling of something a lot bigger than a regular season game.

Although Evengi Malkin scored the first goal for the Penguins, the rest of the game was somewhat dominated by the Capitals, led by unlikely hero Eric Fehr. F16 notched two goals for the Caps coming off the bench after being scratched in the team’s two previous games. Once the Capitals scored their first, there was really a momentum shift. I felt like Marc Andre Fleury got extremely lucky as his team really kept a few pucks from going in, despite him being tangled up out of position several times. A missed attempt by Caps Jason Chimera at an open net also kept the Penguins close. I was not able to see a close up of the Penguins goal that was called back, but the fans behind us sure thought it was a bogus call. Ovechkin also had a goal called back for the Capitals later in the game.

At the end of the day, despite the cold rain that drizzled down for much of the latter part of the game, we all left beaming from ear to ear. Just could not wipe the grin off my face…and it stayed there for days. Even now, a week later, all someone has to do is mention the Winter Classic and I get all giddy. Also, kudos to both the Capitals and the Penguins organizations as well for agreeing to give us all a sneak peek into the preparations through the HBO special 24/7 – absolutely amazing work by HBO to chronicle this experience. Excellent soundtrack and narrative – I definitely teared up watching the final episode. It truly was one of the greatest weekends of my life. In addition, I’m glad my first Winter Classic was to see a team that I love so much. I’m so fortunate that I have great friends that invited me to go and also made the trip fun.

 

 

Last night after the Capitals/Stars game I was still reeling with excitement and decided to call it an early night since I planned to hit Stars practice in Frisco on Friday morning. I was also looking through a few goodies I had picked up for friends, namely the Dallas Stars Foundation calendar – a blatant attempt to convince my girl friends that they should check out hockey! I had planned to send a calendar to my friend Kris in Cincinnati since she would be getting a Dallas Stars tattoo soon and decided it would be cool to get the calendar autographed at practice as a surprise.

At some point as I lay there restlessly, I came up with a great idea to do something really special for Kris at practice. I had decided to take my Flip camera and make a video of some of the guys wishing her good luck on the tattoo. After practice I got a chance to chat with Mike Ribeiro first, who promised he would help out just as soon as he finished hitting the weights. A little later, I caught up with Trevor Daley and Andrew Raycroft, who both recorded funny little clips for my project. The next guy to come out was Steve Ott. He was with his father, so I was hesitant to ask, but thought…it’s Steve Ott…this project would not be complete without Otter!! You can imagine my surprise when Ott asked my friends name and said that he and Adam Burish had actually JUST recorded something for the Dallas Stars website for her!

I was so excited I’m pretty sure I high-fived Ott, knowing that my friend would be so happy the guys did a video for her. I thought about giving up my project, but considering the footage I got from Raycroft and Daley, decided to finish what I started. I wanted to wait until Dallas posted on their website so as not to take away from what they had done, but also wanted to share this video with Kris. Hope you enjoy it and thanks again to the Stars for being so cooperative and funny!

 

 

This year I have had the opportunity to meet some fabulous people via the online world – Twitter, Facebook and events planned and advertised through the use of social media. On October 28th, I went to Dallas to meet up for a girl’s hockey weekend to celebrate the birthday of one such friend named Kris. Despite the Stars loss to the Kings that Thursday (more on this later), the trip was tons of fun and Kris even got to get her Joe Nieuwendyk jersey signed after years of being a huge fan. At the beginning of the season this year, the Dallas Stars burst out of the gates with four straight wins. During this hot streak (and likely after a few glasses of wine), Kris said she would get a tattoo (her first!) if the Dallas Stars won 5 in a row. Alas, the Stars lost their fifth game of the year to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the streak was broken.

Fast forward to December 2nd. I had been waiting for months to see the matchup between my #1 team, the Dallas Stars and the Washington Capitals, the team I adopted living in DC from 2006-2010. I was lucky enough to have been sent a free ticket to the game by one of my Twitter followers and had been counting down the days forever! Early in the day I had heard that Stars coach Marc Crawford had announced that Andrew Raycroft had earned the start in the net for the Stars. Yikes! Kari Lehtonen had been on a hot streak, winning the last three straight and only allowing 4 goals total in the wins. I was nervous. Not to mention…the first thing I saw in the game notes when I got to American Airlines Center was the statistic that Kari Lehtonen had not lost a game in regulation at home since October 28th…yep, I remember…I was there.

The game got off to a shaky start for the Stars with the Capitals dominating the shots on goal battle. However, Raycroft was solid and stopped all 14 shots in the first period, making some amazing saves in the process. The Capitals seemed to be controlling the game in the first though and again, I was nervous. During the second, the Stars really started playing a trap defense that changed the momentum of the game in my opinion. Rather than hanging back and letting the Caps set up plays, the Stars were swarming and going after the puck before it even crossed the blue line, many times getting the takeaway and pushing the play back into their own offensive zone.

At 13:29 in the second, Mike Ribeiro scored what I thought might end up being the game winning goal. Both teams were fighting so hard, scrambling to make something happen and shots on goal were low and fairly even in the second with the Capitals leading 10-8. In the third period, the Capitals came out slinging again, logging another 14 shots on goal, but it wasn’t until halfway through the final period that one slipped past Raycroft. Mike Knuble scored off a sweet pass by Mike Green to even up the score. I feared overtime. I feared shootout. However, just 20 seconds later, Brandon Segal said, “Fear not…we got this,” and launched a long shot right past Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth to put the Stars up 2-1.

In the final minutes of the game came a very controversial call that disallowed a Capitals goal. I will say honestly that I was at the other end of the ice and with the bends in the glass, was not able to really see what happened, so I can not make a call. However, in reading all of the recaps, it appears that even the Capitals weren’t sure what happened except that they were robbed. At AAC, it was announced that the goal was disallowed because the player was in the crease. According to Russian Machine Never Breaks, the infraction was caused by Stephane Robidas skating into Raycroft. TPP says it was Karlis Skrastins. Others that were at the game said they thought Skrastins was already heading into Raycroft, but Ovechkin helped him along. Either way, I think it was ruled that Ovechkin is just a beast and his manhandling of our players made it appear to the officials that some sort of goalie interference occurred.

For the record, I wish this would not have happened. No matter the outcome, I hate for a game to be tainted by what is deemed bad officiating because it gives the losing teams an opportunity to say that they “would have won if.” Honestly, the Capitals would have won this game long before that call if they had played their game. Throughout the night they looked sloppy, missing passes, falling all over the place (Ovi!! I’m sure it was the ice) and just failing to take advantage of opportunities. The Stars may have looked rather scrappy last night, but they fought hard for this win and I don’t think you can take that away from them. Andrew Raycroft stepped in and played a near flawless game and was rewarded for it.

I also must say that Brad Richards deserves to be the MVP of this team. His puck-handling ability and calmness on the ice is amazing to watch in person and I sure hope the Dallas Stars do everything in their power to keep him in the Lone Star state. It is likely this team would fall apart without him.

So, the Stars win, albeit an ugly and controversial one. It was a fantastic game to see live and I am so thankful for the opportunity to do so. And Kris must get her tattoo!! Especially now that the Dallas Stars know about it since they re-tweeted her pledge yesterday! I certainly hope she makes a trip out of it and comes down to Texas for the big event. Congrats Stars and good luck Kris!!

This summer there was a big hoopla on Twitter when Phoenix Coyotes left wing Paul Bissonnette unexpectedly (or expectedly depending on how you look at it) deleted his Twitter account @PaulBizNasty.  The departure from tweeting came after controversial remarks surrounding the announcement of Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract and its subsequent rejection by the NHL.  It was widely speculated that either the Coyotes or the NHL forced Bissonnette to delete the account, but when I questioned him on the subject his original reply was, “No comment. God I hate saying that. I miss it to. Tell everyone I love there support. It’s good for the fans. Get to know the players personality.”  He has since stated on his Facebook page (which has grown in friends exponentially to over 4,400 since the incident) that it was his agent who made him shut down the page and partnered with Sauce Hockey to create t-shirts with creative BizNasty slogans. Profits from the sales will be donated to Phoenix-area homeless shelters, as Bissonnette often expressed his love of “bums” on his Twitter account.

Bissonnette returned to Twitter at the start of the NHL season at @BizNasty2point0 and now has 16,662 followers. While the league, athletes and agents are constantly trying to figure out how to tap into the free advertising that social media provides and how to “do it right,” this incident plays back to the popular public relations mantra, “No publicity is bad publicity.”  If anything, Paul Bissonnette’s Twitter account is an example of how not to “do” social media. He is constantly offensive and far from politically correct.  However, the public reaction to the shutting down of his account proved that the fans crave a sort of “realness” from athletes, especially from hockey players, who have long been criticized for having no personality.  So where do we draw the line on what is appropriate?

The NHL GM’s meeting is today and one of the items on the table is the league’s social media policy, or lack thereof.  The NHL is the only major sports league that does not currently have a policy in place. Sports Business Daily recently held a roundtable of ten team and league executives to discuss the pros and pitfalls of social media. Most agreed that there are not yet strict policies in place, just “common sense” guidelines and a “we’ll know it when we see it” attitude to what athletes and team representatives should not do in the social space.  Regardless of guidelines or agreement on how to operate in the social space, it is evident that everyone agrees on the importance of existing in social media, as it is something that appeals to the fans. While in some cases, it has not translated to dollar-for-dollar ROI, the “behind the scenes” look at a team or athlete definitely enhances the experience for fans. Melissa Brenner, Vice-President of Marketing for the NBA said, “Whatever trepidation we might or might not have had at first was outweighed by the fans’ fervor for this.”

It will be interesting to see how new policies develop and change over time among the professional sports leagues and teams. One can certainly hope that restrictions don’t take away the inside look at player’s personalities, as in my opinion, that is what makes social media unique. I had the opportunity to talk to one of hockey’s best Twitter personalities this summer, goalie for the Albany Devils, Mike McKenna. Mike has done a fabulous job of growing his fan base through Twitter (@MikeMcKenna56), but also occasionally guest blogs on goalie-specific topics for InGoalMag. McKenna actually started using Twitter for the same reason that hockey fans are using it…to follow a favorite sport (in his case Indy car racing). He now has over 2,400 followers and Tweets regularly. He joined Twitter completely on his own.  McKenna said, “it’s a terrific way to engage and interact with fans, and that’s a high priority for me.  I make a point of being involved in whatever community I am playing in, and Twitter is just an extension of that.” This summer he even ran a contest via Twitter for his followers to help him choose a new design for his goalie pads. Although he says the pads that were selected weren’t his personal favorite initially, nearly 400 people voted and he wears the pads proudly. He hopes fans who voted can look at his gear and say “I had a part in choosing that!”

The great thing about Mike McKenna is that he is extremely aware of how social media can build or damage an athlete’s personal brand. When asked about why he uses it, McKenna responded, “I believe Twitter is more than a social networking platform.  For professional athletes and people with a modicum of celebrity, it’s also a personal marketing device.  I started Tweeting because it was fun and useful, but over time I have seen the professional benefits associated with it.  Although I truly enjoy interacting with my followers, I also realize that having an account aids in creating a personal fanbase.  In the sports world, a good reputation goes a long way, and presenting yourself in an interesting yet calculated manner on Twitter can only help.  With that knowledge comes the realization that self-censoring must happen constantly.  I have very strong political and religious opinions but I shy away from such topics.  I’d hate to alienate a fan purely based on beliefs. All too often, the only way fans get to know players is through media interviews, which very rarely show off the player’s true personality.  Twitter is pretty much the antithesis of that.”

Another big proponent of Twitter is agent, Scott Norton of Norton Sports. Norton encourages all of his clients to “get active with social media, as long as they will do so in a professional manner.  I know that both Twitter and Facebook can help any of the players from a PR and marketing standpoint, and am willing to assist them in the process.” Norton acknowledges that although he helps his athletes with setup and the technology, everything they post is their own.  One of Norton’s star clients Dustin Brown launched his DLo23 line with Combat Sports this summer and most of the promotion for the event was handled through the use of social media. Norton’s latest project launched with the help of social media is “Make My Day Monday, ” in which people are encouraged to take some time out of their lives each Monday to make an impact, no matter how big or small, on someone else’s life. This initiative has gotten a lot of press for Norton Sports and its clients and already made a big difference in the lives of many. Followers from everywhere Tweet in each Monday things they have done with the hashtag #MMDM, ranging from donating money to a cause to simply giving a coworker a ride home from work to help out.  Norton Sports also partnered with State Street Sports to host the first ever “Make My Day Monday” event in October.

As the public craving for the look inside the lives of professional athletes grows, it is in the professional league’s best interest to create rules, but not make them too restrictive. If athletes are not able to let their personalities show through in their use of social media, it will lose its appeal. Fans love social media because it gives them a chance to identify with their favorite athletes and realize that these guys are human beings, most with similar interests and concerns. In addition, the power of using social media and celebrity to do good can not be overlooked. After all, didn’t you get your “BizNasty Feeds the Homeless t-shirt?” I bought two…one for a friend for #MMDM.

I know I preach over and over that AHL fans need to move on when guys get traded to other teams, but I also like to keep tabs on guys I’ve seen play in Cedar Park. The AHL is a developmental league. NHL teams are looking at their affiliates for potential impact players at the next level. Players are also looking for an opportunity to make a jump. Here are some updates on former Texas Stars players from around the league:

*Mathieu Beaudoin (Phoenix Coyotes/SA Rampage) – Currently ranked 8th in overall points in the AHL. Beaudoin has 7 points and 7 assists through 12 games in San Antonio with the Rampage. Beaudoin has a plus-1 rating.

*Garrett Stafford (Phoenix Coyotes/SA Rampage) – Stafford has 3 goals and 8 assists in 11 games played with a plus-2 rating. Stafford was scratched in the contest in Cedar Park earlier this season.

*Matt Climie (Phoenix Coyotes/SA Rampage) – Matt Climie is currently on a 5-game winning streak, having allowed just 7 goals with a 1.37 GAA and a .958% over that stretch. However, he started in net during the 2 early season losses to his former team, the Texas Stars, allowing 7 goals against.

*Andrew Hutchinson (Pittsburgh Penguins/Wilkes-Barre Penguins) – Hutch is the only former Stars player that has spent significant time with his new NHL squad, as he was called up for 5 games to fill roster holes left by injured Pens defensemen. He did have an assist during his time with Pittsburgh, but had a minus-3 rating. The Wilkes-Barre Pens look like the team to beat this season as they are now 9-0 on the season. For Wilkes-Barre, Hutchinson has logged 2 goals and 5 assists.

*Warren Peters (Minnesota Wild/Houston Aeros) – Peters is still a menace on the ice this year for the Aeros, constantly stirring up trouble with other teams, but not making a big impact on the scoreboard. In 11 games he has 1 goal, 2 assists and 14 penalty minutes.

*Ethan Graham (Charlotte Checkers) – Graham has played 4 games with the Checkers and logged 1 assist.

*Dan Jancevski (Philadelphia Flyers/Adirondack Phantoms) – Jancevski has the misfortune of playing on one of the worst teams in the AHL. Phantoms have a 2-9 record on the season and have already dismissed one player because of attitude problems, as well as warned two others. Jancevski wore the ‘C’ in one of the preseason games for the Phantoms. He has one assist.

Other random notes on Stars’ prospects/guys that have been in camp with Dallas or Texas (I know there are a ton more…these are just guys that have some good/interesting stats):

*Jack Campbell (Windsor Spitfires/OHL) – Campbell was signed to a 3-year entry-level deal this past week by the Dallas Stars. Campbell has played for 738 minutes in 13 games for the Spitfires and has faced 396 shots. The Spitfires weak defense has not done Campbell any favors this year and his stats show it. Campbell has a 3.82 GAA and a save percentage of .881.

*Tyler Beskorowany (Idaho Steelheads) – Besko logged his first career shutout for the Steelheads opener against Victoria this season. He has played in 8 games and is 3-3-1-1 with a 2.49 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

*Cody Lampl (Idaho Steelheads/ECHL) – Lampl has 5 assists for the Steelheads this year, almost halfway to the number of assists he had in the entire season (12) last year. Lampl also has a plus-1 rating. Random fun fact? Cody was the first Idaho-grown player to sign with the Steelheads.

*Tyler Ludwig (Idaho Steelheads/ECHL) – Ludwig also has 5 assists for the Steelheads…big downside? He also has a minus-4 rating..

*Nino Musitelli (Allen Americans/CHL) – Musitelli is leading the team with 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists)

*Colton Yellow Horn (Allen Americans/CHL) – Yellow Horn has 11 points for Allen (3 goals, 8 assists)

*Scott Glennie (Brandon Wheat Kings/WHL) – Glennie has 2 goals and 13 assists in 16 games in his 4th season with the Wheat Kings.

Mikey Mo returns to Dallas…I cry.

Driving into Dallas yesterday afternoon, I could swear my arm hairs were standing on end – just seeing the city skyline gave me goosebumps. It had been nine years since I was at American Airlines Center to see the Stars and what a night to come back. Mike Modano would be returning to the city and the arena that was his home for so many years, but he would be suited up for one of the Dallas Stars most hated rivals – the Detroit Red Wings.

Stepping into American Airlines Center, I was surprised to see so much red. I always knew the Wings were one of the Stars biggest rivals, but had no idea how many Red Wings fans showed up to Dallas when their team played. Of course, there were tons of Zetterberg and Datsyuk jerseys, but it wasn’t until I saw a #90 Modano jersey that it really hit me. Mikey Mo was no longer a Dallas Star after almost 20 years with the organization. Like many other hockey fans, Mike Modano was one of the reasons I started watching. In the late 90s the Stars were electric and seeing guys like Modano and Nieuwendyk remain a part of the organization for so long was really inspiring. Being there really took me back to a time when I first fell in love with hockey…the days when the “eagle” Eddie Belfour guarded the net for the Stars..days when the team won the Stanley Cup.

The opening video for the Stars however was a look at the future. With Mike Modano playing on the other side of the ice and Marty Turco up in Chicago, the Stars were a new team.  When the opening notes of Jay-Z and Rihanna’s “Run this Town” started playing and the images of the Stars players around the city of Dallas flashed across the screen, a new kind of chill ran through me. This was one of hope, of promise of uncertainty for the future. This was a team that, although it has a very capable captain in Brendan Morrow, looks to each other for success. From top to bottom of the roster, I feel like these players draw on each other’s experience and work to find ways to exploit the areas where each excels. And this is the kind of team that wins.

Of course when they put Mike up on the big screen with a “Thank you Mike,” and the crowd went to their feet, I could not help but hold back tears. Tears of joy? Sadness? I am not sure, but I was certainly overcome with emotion. Seeing his face and the emotions he was experiencing was just incredible. Mike Modano is one of the reasons I fell in love with the great sport of hockey and the Dallas Stars. This moment was more than worth the price of my ticket.

Dallas went on to win the game 4-1. When the Wings scored their first goal of the night, I got chills again when the crowd started chanting, “It just doesn’t matter.” Despite the love everyone felt for Modano, this night was really about the team, the future, these Stars. The win over the Red Wings put Dallas at 3-0 for the season..somewhere many thought they had no chance to be this year. While the Stars did lose their first game Monday night, they have already accomplished more than many believed they could. I have a feeling the Dallas Stars will continue to surprise people this year.

While I am sure the recent personalization of my Texas Stars jersey is going to land me on Puck Daddy‘s Jersey Fouls post, I can honestly say I am very happy with the way it turned out. I bought my Texas Stars jersey last spring when I moved back to Austin after a four-year stint in our nation’s capital. Hungry for hockey after falling in LOVE with the Washington Capitals, I returned to my roots and decided to check out the Dallas Stars’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Austin…the Texas Stars. Having never watched AHL hockey, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that the game is just as exciting as watching the big club. Some of these players bounce back and forth between the AHL and NHL clubs and often are traded around to fill in gaps on the parent clubs rosters throughout the season.

For this reason, it’s very hard to remain “player loyal” in the AHL.  I feel terrible for the merchandise team as they are constantly struggling to figure out who the “hot” player of the moment is, often only to fill t-shirt orders just in time to see a player traded or called up to the big club. The Texas Stars don’t sell their jerseys with numbers or names on them for this reason. Personalization is not cheap and jerseys have to be shipped off to Frisco to be embroidered, but fans are permitted to customize a jersey pretty much however they wish.

During last season’s Calder Cup run, I had a few favorite players for the Stars – forwards #14  Jamie Benn (who I KNEW would be headed back to Dallas this fall), #11 Aaron Gagnon (who I figured had a decent shot with the big club), #27 Greg Rallo (who I hoped would be back, but knew was on a one-year deal with Texas) and goalie #33 Matt Climie (who I would have placed bets would be gone Day 1 of free agency after the stellar playoff run he had). I was hesitant to commit to a number/player’s name for my jersey because I didn’t want it to be outdated in less than a year and honestly wanted it as a memory of our storybook first season in the AHL.

So, the solution? Make it mean something to me. The spring of 2010 was when I first started covering Texas Stars hockey forExaminer.com. Many will argue that Examiner is not a legitimate news outlet and honestly, I can’t say that I truly disagree. I don’t have an Editor, I don’t get assignments, and I don’t have deadlines. However, I write in the journalistic style of a major news outlet and I believe I give the Texas Stars some of the best coverage out there. Rather than simply regurgitating press releases, I write my own stories and look for my own twists on things. As a result of this coverage and my connection to social media, I was able to connect with agent Scott Norton of Norton Sports via Twitter, who represented Matt Climie of the Texas Stars. Climie was about to face a difficult free agency period and I wanted to do a profile piece on him.  Norton was nice enough to hook up this rookie journalist with an interview and as a result, I wrote one of my best pieces to date. So that is why the #33 – first ever exclusive interview and true turning point for me where I knew that there was no option for me but a career in sports.

As for the name, I didn’t want to do Climie for two reasons. First, there are enough female Texas Stars fans who swoon over him I was afraid I’d totally give the wrong impression. Remember, I’m not a puck bunny!! Second, I knew he would be gone as soon as free agency started. Instead, I decided to go with the name that now almost 1,000 Twitter followers and hundreds of readers at Examiner.com know me by: TXSTARSGIRL. It’s the end of my bit.ly link and my Twitter handle and I knew that no matter what I went on to do in sports, this was always going to be the true beginning.

So what does the future hold for me? I still don’t know. I have applied for several jobs around the NHL and AHL, but still haven’t landed the perfect one. I’m holding out for a sales/marketing/PR type job and have realized that I just don’t want to settle. In the meantime, I am still bartending at Third Base downtown and writing. I’ve picked up a couple of new mostly unpaid writing gigs, which I’ll be talking more about soon. They will be added to my “Blog Roll” here as well in time. Thanks to all of you that read…I have really enjoyed connecting with new fans and friends this year.

A girl at work yesterday asked me if I’d ever date a hockey player.  I have to admit the question caught me a little off-guard.  See, most of the people I know are quite aware of my sports obsession.  However, they are also quite aware that it is a legitimate fandom, not some silly crush-fueled love of a sport due to tight pants, chiseled muscles or the desire to be a trophy wife.  A few weeks ago I spent a couple of days at the Dallas Stars development camp in Frisco, Texas. I went to check out the new talent, hoping to catch a glimpse of who might be joining the AHL team in Cedar Park next season and also wanting to see if goalie prospect Jack Campbell lived up to the hype (he does by the way). While I was there however, I noticed something a little odd…I was the ONLY female there for most of the camp. Yes, there was the occasional girlfriend that popped in on her boyfriend’s arm (looking extremely bored the whole time I might add) or the mom-types that came to watch their kids at camp, but as far as true spectators of the sport…yep, not many. This really got me thinking about female hockey fans and the image we get stuck with most of the time. Call them what you will, puck bunnies or other less-friendly terms, but most people think that girls are only interested in hockey because they are hoping for a chance to hook up with/date/marry a hockey player.

I’ve loved sports all my life. Yes, I was introduced to hockey by guys I thought were cute, but the reason I kept watching had zero to do with those guys and everything to do with the fact that I simply grew to love the sport.  Hockey is an intense sport.  It is fast-paced and rarely do you catch a break in the action, except maybe to send someone to the penalty box (and usually what got them there was pretty intense to begin with) or for major injury. The game moves at lightning speed and is always exciting. More than that for me however, is just a huge amount of respect for the skill and talent these athletes possess. I grew up watching football and have always loved the game, but the day I grew a tremendous amount of admiration for hockey players was the day I threw on a pair of ice skates. It is difficult enough to skate forward and these guys are skating backward, turning on a dime, and somehow managing to track a puck and handle being pushed around by other players. There is an unbelievable amount of skill required to go pro in this sport.

It’s great to see some professional hockey teams working to build their female fan base by actually teaching ladies about the sport.  The Washington Capitals, for example, host Hockey n’ Heels each year (which sells out quickly for the record), which features instructional lessons and on-ice demonstrations by coaches, media and the broadcast team. Of course, you are still going to have those that show up just for the opportunity to meet players, but it is nice to see the team at least making an attempt in making these girls true fans.  I’ve also run across several other female bloggers that either play hockey or are genuine fans, which has been really refreshing.  I must admit I was very proud to have been added to a Twitter list recently called “Hockey Non Puck Bunnies.

So, to return to the original question – “Would I ever date a hockey player?”  To answer truthfully, I’d have to say, “Sure…but not BECAUSE he’s a hockey player (or any other athlete for that matter).”  I’d definitely hold any hockey player to the same ridiculous standards to which I’d hold any other guy accountable.  Furthermore, he’d have to deal with the fact that I live and breathe sports – hockey and football mostly, but I’ll settle for soccer or basketball if it is all that is available.  It’s just who I am and what I do. I put a priority on watching important sporting events and definitely let game outcomes affect my moods at times.  I can talk stats and strategy with the best of them…even if I do notice a hot guy or two every now and then!

That was my working title for the latest article I wrote following my exclusive interview with Texas Stars’ goalie Matt Climie last week.  I had the pleasure of spending an hour with Climie last week before he headed out of Austin for the summer to visit friends and family across the country and had a ton of great audio to sort through so it made writing the article extremely difficult.  Honestly going into the interview, I had heard that he was rather arrogant in person and was somewhat nervous about meeting him because I wasn’t sure how I would handle the experience if that was the case.  I actually found myself looking for reasons that anyone would say that about him though because he was nothing but pure awesome the entire meeting…Extremely humble and polite.  It was easy to see that the guy just wants to play hockey and takes the game very seriously.

Since my article was already like 900 words, I had a lot of other random Matt Climie quotes and facts I wanted to share that didn’t quite fit in, so I figured I’d give you fans a few of them here.  Like I said, after spending an hour with the guy you can’t help but like him and hope he succeeds.

  • Matt is the youngest of six children.  He has two older sisters and three older brothers.
  • He has a degree in education and planned to be a teacher if hockey didn’t work out.  I joked that he must have just been looking for a job where he gets summers off…he does love the summer.
  • Matt went to school in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, for four years and loves the lake. However, the winters were so brutal the school had tunnels from the dorms to the academic buildings.
  • According to Matt, Austin is his favorite city he’s lived in so far.  He is really laid back and felt it was easy to adapt to Austin. Funny thing though, he hasn’t really developed a love for Tex-Mex food…but he does enjoy a good mexican martini..with salt of course, just no fancy martini glass necessary (I concur).
  • You may have noticed that he breaks a lot of goalie sticks.  When asked what that was all about, he laughed and said, “Just the stick’s not good anymore? I don’t know.  As a goaltender, we do go through a lot of sticks. We’re fortunate enough to be able to use a new one every so many games.  So at that point, a lot of times I can look at a stick and maybe if I had a couple of bad games with it or a loss or two with it is was no good and I’d take it out on the stick.”
  • Speaking of his gear…only one question (out of four pages of them!) that he even hesitated to answer…when asked if he has any superstitions, he initially joked and said, “No comment,” but then admitted that he messes with and checks his gear a lot…nervous twitch if you will..says he has his best games when he feels confident with his gear.

I will definitely be looking forward to seeing where Matt Climie ends up when the free agency period begins on Thursday, July 1st.  It was a pleasure watching him play during the Calder Cup playoffs this year and I wish him the best of luck in his career (hopefully with the Dallas Stars next year)!