It's been over a decade since the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup and proved, six years after moving from Minnesota, that there was room for professional ice hockey even in football-obsessed, not-at-all-icy Texas. The team's popularity has flagged significantly in recent years, but a generation of North Texas kids who were inspired to take up hockey are now coming of age. And they are apparently really, really good.
The Edmonton Sun has taken note. It dispatched a reporter to Plano to figure out how the suburb has managed to produce first-round draft picks in two of the past three years, which is two more than, say, Montreal. (Seth Jones, the son of former Maverick Popeye Jones, is projected to go No. 1 in next summer's draft).
This affluent community of 260,000 people, often picked as one of the best places to live in America, is also one of the most popular homes to corporate America.
Driving along its flat and featureless terrain ("Plano" is Spanish for flat) among its twisting overpasses, you'll see the corporate headquarters of companies like Dell and Hewlett-Packard, Dr. Pepper-Snapple and Pizza Hut, CA Technologies and Ericsson. The city is thus responsible for producing a wide variety of some of the most popular consumer products in America.
You can apparently add another product to the list: blue chip hockey prospects.
The Sun talks to Stefan Noesen, a Plano native who was picked 21st overall in 2011 by the Ottawa Senators. The Stars had just moved to Dallas when he was born, so he began playing in one of the recently launched youth leagues. These were part of a strategy on the part of the Stars to develop local hockey talent and, not coincidentally, a dedicated fan base.
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What remains to be seen is whether the spate of prospects coming out of North Texas is merely a blip caused by the Stars' brief wave of popularity, or if the area's youth hockey programs are strong enough to keep churning them out.