In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 20 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Can Turk. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.
In Game 4 of this year's short but impressive playoff run, the Dallas Stars were down 2-0 in the second period, and their future was looking bleaker by the shift. It was one of those moments -- even stacked teams have them -- when someone needed to assert himself, to show his teammates that all would be OK. The Stars knew where to turn.
There was a face-off, and Jamie Benn won it. But rather than push the puck back to teammates per tradition, he blazed past his bemused opponent, who could do nothing more than turn to look at the green streak buzzing by, and skated straight into the path of two surprised defenders. While the defenders scrambled to corral him, Benn, who was closer to the blue line than to the very small goal covered by the very large goaltender, hammered a shot into the two available square inches of net in the top corner. The Stars rallied to a 4-2 victory.
This isn't how 24-year olds who were drafted 129th overall by an unfashionable hockey team are meant to play against one of the NHL's best teams. Yet nothing about Benn is how it's meant to be. This is a player who, in his own words, thought Dallas would be the last place he'd be pursuing his dream of being a professional hockey career. You'd think, given his lowly draft position, that to achieve that dream he'd have to become one of the rank-and-file, the many reliable yet unspectacular players a good hockey team relies on. He didn't.
What he became instead is a bona fide superstar, one of the most thrilling players in the NHL, and he did the whole thing in Texas. Moving here from British Columbia at 20 was a big step, but talking to Benn about how accepted he feels in his new hometown, you understand that Southern hospitality is alive and well. He couldn't be more proud to be a citizen of Dallas, and a Texas Rangers fan to boot.
The rest of the sporting world is paying attention. When Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Bodreau was asked about Benn, he said, "If he was playing in Toronto, they'd be making statues of him." At least during that run, Dallas, a great hockey town when it fancies, probably would have levied a tax to build one. And if Benn and his even younger partner in goals, Tyler Seguin, can fulfill their potential, they'll be making room in Victory Plaza someday.