It's not a stretch to say that Dallas is not a hockey town. Actually, if the Mavs were still a team competing for a title (instead of a mere nuisance along the way of the New Orleans Hornets playoff run), it would be hard to say how enthralled Big D would truly be with the Stars.
Hockey fans in general seem to be more die-hard than other sports fans. It goes with the nature of the sport. But in Dallas, it doesn't hurt that the Stars take a 3-0 series lead over the Sharks in the second round of the playoffs. Now that the Mavs' playoff run ran out - and the Rangers are still the Rangers - the city of Dallas will focus in on the one team currently shinning the brightest.
Tonight's 2-1 OT win at the AAC has Dallas focusing on hockey again. It's not that everyone jumped off the bandwagon and deserted this team, but there were simply other distractions. The Stars hadn't advanced in the playoffs since '03. They couldn't get past the Avs. The lockout took away hockey all together. And meanwhile the Mavericks emerged as contenders in the NBA, going to the finals in 2006, and the Cowboys - which will always own this town regardless of how many titles the Mavericks, Stars or Rangers could ever amass - began to compete again, getting back into the playoffs the last two seasons.
So the Stars haven't been forgotten, but there have been other - more successful - distractions. As owner Tom Hicks was quoted in a recent Dallas Morning News article about Stars hockey being hot again:
"Dallas is a city that loves winners. Whether it's the Stars or the Mavs or the Cowboys – and hopefully someday it's going to be the Rangers again – there's a lot more interest when they feel like you're going to win."
And he's absolutely right. Using myself as an example:
I don't think I missed more than one home Cowboys game this past season. I went to more than a dozen Mavs games this year. The Stars, well, I went to one game back in November. When these teams were on the road, I didn't miss a Cowboys game I couldn't attend. Actually, it was tough for anyone to miss those games as they were virtually all nationally televised. I caught a lot of Mavericks games on TV when they were on the road. Home or away, there weren't a lot of times I purposely made time to watch Stars games.
It's not that I forgot they were there, but they simply weren't a priority over the Mavs or Cowboys at that time. Hicks is right. We like winners here in Dallas, and that's where our attention gravitates. Since the playoffs began, I haven't missed more than a few minutes of the Stars games, even making it out to both Game 3s thus far.
Very few hockey gurus thought the Stars would be merely a game away from the Western Conference finals, yet that's where they are. Up 3-0 on a team many picked to win the Cup this season, Dallas has a chance to sweep the Sharks with a win tonight at the AAC. The true hockey fans enjoy seeing their team continue on its way toward the ultimate goal. The residents of Dallas - myself included - are glad to have a winner.
As I sat at the game tonight with my Dad - a die-hard Cowboys fan since the team's inception in 1960 - explaining penalty shots, offsides and line-changes, it was easy to see why some in this football-intensive town may not totally grasp why someone flooded and froze the floor at that building the basketball team plays in. Rest assured, it's called hockey.
And now, with the Stars only one win away from their first conference finals since their days at Reunion Arena, this city can focus in on the Stars, joining the hockey purists - who haven't been distracted by such novelties as a 13-3 NFC East champ or NBA Finals - in rooting for this team. With the Stars on the fringe of being one of the final four teams in the NHL this year, it seems now is a time people are truly starting to BELIEVE.