The Dallas Stars season is foundering, even if it hasn’t quite yet reached its nearly inevitable conclusion. The Texas Stars are dwelling near the bottom of the Central Division (having lost many of their players at some point to the NHL team’s taxi squad), and the Calder cup won’t be awarded this year. That being said, there has been a lot to be excited about for hockey fans in Texas this last few weeks.
In Austin, it was recently announced that the Ice Bats would be reforming as a junior hockey team, based at the Crossover Rink in Cedar Park, for the small but enthusiastic hockey community in the city, this means that talented junior players coming up through the Stars system will have the option to play at home until the age of 20, filing hole in the local development system.
In Dallas too, the city has been hosting 3 major youth tournaments in the last few weeks. The USA Tier 1 youth hockey nationals (15U, 15O) were held at Valley Ranch and Euless, the Tier 2 (14 U) youth nationals in McKinney and Farmers Branch and, following the relocation of the U18 world championship to Texas the tournament kicked off last week.
In a year where travel has been severely limited the World Championships give NHL scouts a rare opportunity to see the most talented players in the world in Texas. Particular standouts have included Matvei Michkov, the 16-year-old Russian phenom who appears to be on track to break Alexander Ovechkin tournament scoring record, and Samu Tuomaala, a speedy, skilled Finnish winger projected to be a high second-round pick. Tuomaala, for any Stars fan watching, will remind them of another Finnish player taken in the second round – Roope Hintz.
The enthusiasm with which the international tournament has been greeted by hockey fans in Texas is heartening, with Brad Alberts – the Stars CEO, noting that the interest was such that they could have easily sold out a capacity Coamerica Center.
The Stars have also indicated that should a venue in Canada not be found (the preferred option for the IIHF), they would be willing to host the postponed women’s World Championships, previously scheduled to be held in Nova Scotia.
Texas may never be the biggest hockey market, but the game continues to grow significantly in the state and will continue to do so as long as the youth game keeps building, and marquee events continue to raise the profile of the game.
image: iihf/coamerica center