Hey, What Happened to Hockey?

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I still have a puck from the first Dallas Stars game, played at Reunion Arena on Oct. 5, 1993. Went to the game with Troy Aikman and I remember going into the locker room and meeting Mike Modano and seeing lots of hot women in the crowd and thinking "Whoa, ice is cool."

Then along came Ken Hitchcock and Ed Belfour and Derian Hatcher and Brett Hull and at the turn of the century the Stars were the most successful team in the Metroplex and their games were Dallas' most popular see-and-be-scene. Pucks in the net. Boobs on the glass. The Stars Club. Ahhh, the good ol' days.

But now?

I realize the Stars still have a rabid fan base and I know youth hockey is still healthy with professional minor-league outfits cropping up in North Richland Hills and Allen. But, in general, hockey has shrunk to a handful of puckheads.

I've been to one game this year and it was like spending three hours in a library with kick ass air conditioning. The StarCenter down in Duncanville has been transformed into a basketball gym and in talking on the radio daily and trying to keep my finger on the pulse of Metroplex sports, the Stars rarely create a murmur, much less a buzz.

I used to write a couple Dallas Observer columns per year on the Stars, but with little feedback. Matter of fact, it was just two years ago the Stars lifted their skirts and almost - almost - had us back in lust with them via a riveting playoff run. Now, let's be honest, I basically ignore them, and nobody says a peep.

I know Sean Avery's gone and Joe Nieuwendyk's back and Modano's still here, but while the Cowboys are enjoying a playoff revival and the NBA is drawing 92,000 for its All-Star Game this weekend, hockey seems be a novelty act that Dallas has gotten tired of faster than you can say Ghostbar.

Owner Tom Hicks is selling the franchise, basically saying that teams "south of Pennsylavania" are at a severe financial and competitive disadvantage. The team, mired in a forgettable season, trades for a backup goalie. All together now ... y-a-w-n.

Maybe the Winter Olympics will remind how fun hockey can be. Perhaps another deep run into the playoffs will re-boot our fascination. Until then hockey may still rule up north, but in Uptown it's luke-warm at best.

So, um, what happened?

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