We may be on the eve of football season, but another season is just around the corner where the hits are just as hard.
The National Hockey League season gets underway on Oct. 2, and coming off last season's performance, fans and faithful of the Dallas Stars have plenty of reason to be optimistic. I, for one, like to think if they could have just gotten past the St. Louis Blues in that double-overtime Game 7 in the second round of last season's playoffs, it might have been that Stars hoisting the Stanley Cup at season's end.
That enthusiasm was certainly present at the recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Fort Worth. The Fort Worth Club's 12th floor meeting area was filled with enthusiasm as Stars head coach Jim Montgomery was the guest speaker.
True to Stars tradition, as the National Anthem was being sung, many in attendance shouted "Stars!" at the part of "Oh say, does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave." It was about as close as one could get to the atmosphere with no nearby ice.
In introducing Montgomery, or Monty as many call him, Rotary Club of Fort Worth Past President David Campbell went over Monty's resume highlights. It included being the 2017 NCAA Coach of the Year after leading the University of Denver to a national championship and a second straight Frozen Four appearance. Then, he came to a unique note, the 600 penalty minutes Monty accumulated as a player.
"That's 10 hours in the box! We like that," Campbell said with excitement.
Other highlights for Monty include leading Maine to the 1993 national championship as a player with a 42-1-2 record, finishing as Maine's all-time leading scorer with 301 points (103 goals, 198 assists), and having is number 19 retired by Maine. He's one of only three players in school history to receive that honor.
The guy simply knows how to win. He led Dubuque, Iowa to a pair of United States Hockey League championships in 2011 (his first season as a head coach) and 2013 before going to the University of Denver and now the Stars.
And he knows how to take advantage of a comic opportunity. When Monty walked up to the podium following a video show, it was a moment or two before the lights came back up. He quipped, "I spent most of my life talking in the dark."
It's hard for him to stay in the dark these days, however. His coaching success has put him in a spotlight.
Monty credited much of his winning ways to his father, about whom he said, "The person I am is because of who he is."
Monty delighted the crowd with a story about how, when he was young, he and his dad were called in to meet with a coach. The coach told his dad that little Monty was a heck of an athlete, but he had trouble accepting defeat, to which his dad replied, "Who likes to lose?"
Not Monty, and neither do Stars fans. It has been a long time since local fans have dreamt of having a contender for the Stanley Cup. There have been a couple of splashes of hope, but nothing tangible.
Monty, always honest, said, "We're a couple levels of championship calibre away. We made strides, and I believe this is going to help us grow."
He added that the Stars in 2019-20 will be deeper and more explosive. That only adds to the optimism as the season approaches.
Also among the reasons to be excited about the Stars' coming season is the Winter Classic, the NHL's annual outdoor game that has become a tradition. On Jan. 1, 2020, the game will feature the Stars vs. the Nashville Predators at the Cotton Bowl, the first time the game will be played in the south.
At this point, Stars Team President Brad Alberts addressed the crowd.
"We worked hard for a couple years to get this game in North Texas," Alberts said. "We worked our butts off to convince them that Dallas could host this game."
Then, he added with a laugh, that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told him, "Don't (blank) this up."
In response, Alberts said 80,000 tickets were sold in a very short time, proving Dallas was a good choice.
"For those of you who purchased tickets, thanks. For those who haven't, they're still available," Alberts said.
TRAINING CAMP IN FORT WORTH
Alberts reminded the crowd that the Stars came to Fort Worth a couple times previously for training camp. Now, with the Dickies Arena about to open in November, that possibility looms strong again for Cowtown. In fact, it sounded like a probability, according to Alberts.
"Now, with the new arena being here, we look forward to coming back," he said. "I think that's something our organization could make an annual thing."
Annual? How cool, and yes, a pun was intended. Fort Worth has long been a town that supports hockey, from high school to the Fort Worth Brahmas and the championship days of the Fort Worth Fire, locals are always ready for the drop of a puck.
And while there's little chance this could happen, it was also cool to see Rotary Club of Fort Worth President Rachael Marker ask Monty and Alberts at the end of their presentation, "Maybe when you come to Dickies Arena they'll be the Fort Worth Stars?"
If even for a couple weeks, that would be awesome, gotta admit.