Catching Up With Jeff Halpern
DallasStars.com: What has your summer consisted of up until this point?
Halpern: "I haven't done anything too exciting so far this summer, but that's how I like to spend my time off. It's been alot of fun so far and it's definitely been flying by. I took a brief little vacation to Mexico, but I've spent most of my time in the D.C. area, so it's been nice seeing all of my friends and family back home here. I've also been working out, of course, preparing myself for training camp and the upcoming season."
DallasStars.com: How did you spend your Fourth of July, and is that celebration kicked up an extra notch in our nation's capital?
Halpern: "I had a barbecue at my house, then I went with some friends to a roof-top restaurant and we watched the fireworks with all the monuments in the distance. It's pretty amazing the show they put on in the Washington, D.C., area for July 4th. There is always a strong sense of patriotism around here, but being in the nation's capital for July 4th gives the holiday a little bit of extra meaning. There are a lot of festivities around town and it's pretty special to be a part of."
DallasStars.com: You signed a four-year contract with the Dallas Stars through the 2009-10 season on July 5 of last year. How did you reach that decision to come to Dallas and how do you view that choice a year later?
Halpern: "It was a whirlwind few days for me. Going into the free agency process, I had a pretty good idea of which teams might be interested and who I might be leaning toward. I actually made the decision to sign with Dallas while I was cooking sausages and peppers at a July 4th barbecue last year. That was three days into the process and it was a difficult decision for me. I was trying to pick the team that I felt offered me the best fit, as well as the best opportunity to contribute and win a Stanley Cup. That hasn't changed for me a year later. I felt we had a great team last year with a chance of going deep into the playoffs, but we ran into a couple of roadblocks along the way. I've enjoyed being part of such a good group, and the overall feel I get from the organization is that if you don't win a Stanley Cup that particular year, it's a disappointment and I'm glad to be a part of a club with that mindset."
DallasStars.com: Discuss the outstandinding checking line, on which you centered Stu Barnes and Joel Lundqvist, in the second half of the season and the playoffs.
Halpern: "There were a number of different line combinations throughout the year, and I played with Jere Lehtinen, Brenden Morrow and Patrik Stefan at times. I felt like it didn't really matter who was playing with who on any given night, that the club had 13 solid hockey players that you could find good chemistry with. I do think that toward the end of the year, a line gaining solid chemistry with one another brings alot to the team concept and those individuals, and I really love playing with Stu and Joel. We really gained a lot of confidence playing together down the stretch."
DallasStars.com: What can you tell Stars fans about the introduction you had to Joel Lundqvist during last year's preseason?
Halpern: "It's a prety funny story, actually. I showed up to Dallas a few weeks early to do some conditioning work, and we were just going through some drills and little games on the ice. Next thing I knew, Joel laid me out harder than I'd ever been hit in my life and I wanted to kill him. From that time on, through training camp and the season, guys would always joke about how hard he laid me out. We became very close from that point on, and he's such a great kid, person and hockey player who really wants to learn. For me, it's exciting to play with someone like that, who loves the game and has a passion for getting better. He has a ton of upside that he hasn't had a chance to show yet."
DallasStars.com: How much did you learn playing with a veteran like Stu Barnes last season?
Halpern: "Playing with Stu is such a treat because he's been such a great player for so long. I look at Joel the way I hope Stu looks at me, because I know I learn something from Stu every game. Just the way he approaches every practice and every game, a young guy can take a lot from that. The three of us have a lot of respect for each other and we've developed a good feel for each other on the ice. When you enjoy being linemates, it makes for a lot of success. I played on a solid line in Washington for a number of years with Steve Konowalchuk and Ulf Dahlen, and I always knew we'd play well together. I feel that way with Stu and Joel, which gives us all a lot of confidence."
DallasStars.com: If you had to a choose an All-Star team with solely American-born players, who would you choose? And how impressed are you with the recent run of highly-drafted Americans into the NHL?
Halpern: "I would have Mike Richter in net, for sure. I would pair Rod Langway and Brian Leetch on defense, and the forward line would be Mike Modano centering Keith Tkachuk and Pat LaFontaine. I feel like I'm leaving out great players like Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick. Now that it seems like more and more American-born kids are getting drafted highly into the NHL every year, hopefully there's another wave coming that will rival this group. I think it says alot about the grassroots hockey programs in the United States that so many talented kids are starting to break through. You see kids from Texas and California who are being drafted, in addition to those from more traditional hockey areas like Minnesota and New England. That is an excellent sign for USA Hockey and I hope to see that trend continue."