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Texas Hockey Community Continues To Grow

Friday, 04.17.2009 / 5:07 PM / Feature
By Dallas Stars Staff
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Texas Hockey Community Continues To Grow

Since relocating from Minnesota to the Metroplex in 1993, the Dallas Stars franchise has witnessed the Metroplex blossom into a true ‘hockey town,’ comparable to any in the United States. Interest in the sport has never been higher in North Texas, as evidenced by the demand for ice time at rinks throughout the area.

No longer “just another Sunbelt hockey city,” the Dallas area has seen its total of playing surfaces go from just two in 1993, to nearly 30 sheets around town today. And with all the new rinks have come new players. When the Stars came to town, there were just 250 kids playing hockey in North Texas, and now, there are nearly 8,000, including a growing number of legitimate, high-caliber prospects.

Dallas-area youth programs routinely compete for, and oftentimes win, prestigious national tournaments, and teams from Minnesota and Massachusetts can no longer expect a cakewalk when they face off against North Texans. It has become commonplace to see Dallas-area hometowns listed on the rosters of major NCAA college hockey powers, and the talent evaluators from the U.S. National Team Development Program now make the Metroplex a regular stop.

The opportunities are endless for local players to progress at all levels of the game, and North Texans, and the Lone Star State as a whole, now have more hockey outlets than ever.

First off, the Texas Stars will play their inaugural American Hockey League season in 2009-10 as Dallas’ top development affiliate in Cedar Park, Texas, just north of Austin. The club will play at the new, state-of-the-art Cedar Park Event Center, which will seat 6,800 for hockey and 8,700 for concerts. The Center will have 24 suites (including four party suites) and 545 club seats with a private club lounge.

A retail site of 17 acres is adjacent to the facility grounds for mixed-use development that will include 91,000 square feet for retail and 91,000 square feet for commercial use, developed by Hicks Cedar Park.

“The Dallas Stars are thrilled about bringing the Texas Stars to Cedar Park,” said Dallas Stars co-General Manager Brett Hull. “Having our top development affiliate in our home state is a natural fit and one we think will be great for the fans. There are a lot of Dallas Stars fans in the Greater Austin area and we look forward to giving them a product they will enjoy following.”

Locally, the Texas Tornado will return to North American Hockey League play in 2009-10 after a one-year hiatus in the newly-renovated Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco, formerly known as the Deja Blue Arena. The facility, which opened in 2003, is currently undergoing a major renovation through a partnership between the Dallas Stars, the City of Frisco and the Frisco ISD. The arena, scheduled to open on June 1, will see its capacity will go from 3,500 to more than 6,000. Additions to the new arena include a 1,000-space elevated parking garage, extensive kitchen/catering capabilities, 12 luxury suites and a VIP club/lounge. The Dr Pepper Arena will continue to be home to the Dallas Stars Corporate Offices and the team’s official practice facility.

In April 2008, the Texas Tornado completed their ninth season of play, reaching the NAHL playoffs in each of those campaigns. Under the ownership of Schlegel Sports, the Texas Tornado has won four Robertson Cup championships, including three consecutive titles from 2004-06. The club has produced such NHL prospects as Al Montoya (Phoenix), Ben Bishop (St. Louis), Andy Wozniewski (Toronto) and Trevor Ludwig (Dallas).

Founded in 1975, the NAHL is a Junior-A league affiliated with USA Hockey that boasts 34 years of preparing midget and high school players for the leap to collegiate hockey. The NAHL offers a highly-competitive environment, top-quality coaching and extensive practice time. NAHL games are easily accessible to college and professional talent evaluators.

The Dallas Stars and Hicks Sports Marketing Group (HSMG) announced last month that the newest Dr Pepper StarCenter ice arena will be built at Craig Ranch in McKinney. The eighth Dr Pepper StarCenter in the Metroplex, the Craig Ranch facility will be built on 7.3 acres of land in southwest McKinney and is scheduled to open in October, 2009.

The project is a partnership between the Dallas Stars, the City of McKinney, the McKinney Community Development Corporation and Craig Ranch. The new facility will have two sheets of ice, a full-service StarStuff pro shop, a snack bar and four party/meeting rooms. The StarCenter will be the home to two hockey associations -- the McKinney Ice Hockey Club, which fields teams in the AT&T High School Hockey League, as well as other leagues; and the Texas Aces, which fields travel teams of all ages in the North Texas Hockey League. The facility will also feature beginner leagues for youth and adult hockey players run by the Dallas Stars, advanced adult hockey leagues, a Learn-to-Skate program, figure skating, birthday parties, public skating, corporate team-building events, private ice rentals, camps, clinics, tournaments and skating competitions.

Most recently, the city of Allen announced that it will be the new home of a Central Hockey League franchise. The CHL is an 18-team league with clubs in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. The CHL is a mid-level professional league, a step below the AA-level ECHL and two steps down from the American Hockey League (AHL), the primary development league for the NHL. The Allen team will become the seventh CHL franchise in the state of Texas, joining clubs in Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Laredo, Odessa and the Rio Grande Valley, as well as the Texas Brahmas, who call North Richland Hills home.

Ownership of the Allen CHL team has been awarded to Top Shelf, LLC, whose principal owners and operators are Douglas H. Miller and former NHL star, Steve Duchesne. Miller is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EXCO Resources, Inc. and has been a major contributor to youth hockey in Dallas for the past 17 years. Duchesne played 17 years in the NHL and has been very active in the area’s youth hockey community since moving to the Metroplex.

The Dallas Stars would like to sincerely welcome the Texas Tornado back into the fold after a year away, and wish the Allen CHL group the best of luck with their new franchise.

For more information on the Texas Stars, please visit www.texasstarshockey.com.

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