SIHR Members posing in front of the StarCenter in Farmers Branch (Photo: Liz Pasquinelli)
SIHR Does Dallas
Some of the wettest weather in Texas history wasn't enough to dampen the spirits of the SIHR members who travelled to Dallas for the annual fall meeting hosted by the Dallas Stars.
The location is by far the farthest south that the group has convened, but the long distance to travel was well worth the trip, as the Dallas Stars organization and hosts Jason Farris and Lucas Reid pulled out all of the stops to deliver a major league weekend.
On Friday night in lieu of the usual Meet-and-Greet, members attended a game between the Stars and The Minnesota Wild in which the host team came out short in a 3 to 1 loss to the visitors at the American Airlines Center.
Saturday saw the weather clear and the sun emerge as attendees made their way north to the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in the city of Farmers Branch for the meeting. The arena facility, which has two pads of ice, meeting rooms and a bar, is one of eight which is operated by the Dallas Stars to promote amateur hockey and the team brand in a non-traditional but strong hockey market.
President Wayne Geen called the meeting to order shortly after 9AM which began with a brief business portion which saw Treasurer Bryan Lawrence deliver a financial report which showed a small deficit year-to-date due to the timing of the journal publishing and meeting cost overruns. A few details about the preparations for the 2019 AGM in Windsor were shared and the location of the fall meeting was announced as Quebec City.
Vice-President Bill Sproule then led a Dallas Stars panel discussion with our host Jason Farris, who was was the COO of the team from 2012 until the end of this past August, and Lucas Reid, Head of Amateur Hockey, to talk about the team, the NHL today, and hockey in general based on the view from the corporate offices.
The pair were candid and offered a lot of insight on operating an NHL franchise in the southern United States, which has unique challenges and opportunities. The organization has been fostering a grass-roots approach by heavily backing amateur hockey, which has been paying dividends for the club and is building strong community ties.
Jason Farris leading a tour of the Texas Hockey Heritage Center (Photo: James Milks)
Following the panel discussion, Jason Farris led the group on a tour of the Texas Hockey Heritage Center - a small but detailed exhibit on the history of the sport at the pro level in the state dating back to 1927.
Mark Janko, Bob Bassesn, Terry Ruskowski, Gerald Diduck and Brad Lukowich (Photo: James Milks)
After lunch, the group headed to the Dallas Stars Alumni Centre on the ground floor for another panel discussion with former NHL players Brad Lukowich, Bob Bassen, Terry Ruskowski, and Gerald Diduck, as well as Stars Assistant GM Mark Janko.
In addition to sharing many personal stories and career highlights, the speakers graciously answered questions all while poking fun at one another as if they were still many years younger and had just left the ice after a hard fought win. Janko — who is responsible for player and staff contract negotiations, Collective Bargaining Agreement compliance, cap and budget management and salary arbitration — was forthright and offered management's perspective on many topics from cap space to contracts.
A collection of varied and interesting member research presentations began with James Milks delivering A Sporting Life — A Look at the Life of Jim Riley, the Only NHL and MLB Player, the subject of which played a role in Texas hockey history. It was followed by the amusing Hockey Players in Hospital Beds by Stephen Smith, which chronicled the relationship between the media and player injuries over the years.
John Lokka of Hanover, Pennsylvania, shared his research on the Howard family in his presentation titled The Howards, Hockey, and World War I. Professor Dan Mason of Edmonton presented The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — Hockey Arenas, Status, and Quality of Life in Entrepreneurial Cities, which both highlighted successes and scrutinized myths surrounding public funding of hockey arena construction. Bill Sproule rounded out the day with the lighthearted Evel Knievel — Daredevil, Promoter, Hockey Player.
On the last day of the meeting weekend, the Dallas Stars opened the doors to their corporate offices and practice facility in Frisco, Texas.
The Stars practice facility (Photos: Dean Robinson and James Milks)
Attendees got to tour every nook and cranny of the facility from corporate boardrooms to the laundry room, where many photos were snapped and team merchandise was admired. Despite the temptation, no sticks or skates left the facility.
Members were happily surprised to see some of the Stars players on the ice at the practice facility on what was a scheduled day off for the team. Marc Methot, Valeri Nichushkin, Alexander Radulov and team captain Jamie Benn delighted onlookers as they practiced drills and directed the odd slapshot in the general direction of the gawkers on the other side of the glass.
Valeri Nichushkin at the Dallas Stars practice facility (Photo: Dean Robinson)