The Dallas Stars held their second scheduled luncheon this season at III Forks in north Dallas, allowing the fans to ask questions and interact with some of their favorites from the team. Today's luncheon featured Stars' players Steve Ott, Loui Eriksson and Kari Lehtonen, as well as associate coach Willie Dejardins. Also in attendance was interim team president Tony Tavares and head coach Marc Crawford. Ralph Strangis was the M.C. of the luncheon, as Razor is in Tampa Bay today for a Versus telecast tonight.
Ralph started things off by introducing Tony Tavares, who got up and spoke about the ongoing process of selling the team. He said that there are six (!) interested buyers that he is currently in discussions with and that he had a call this afternoon at 3PM with a potential seventh (!). Sounds much better than earlier in the season when there was more news of people dropping out of the running for buying the team than there were interested buyers. He didn't give any timetable for the sale, but it is reassuring to know that there is interest out there. I hope that more buyers interested means that the lenders will quit dragging things out and be able to sell the team. It was also hinted that his presence has allowed the purse strings to loosen a bit, which led to the acquisition of Jamie Langenbrunner just after Christmas.
Dallas Stars luncheon 8 Feb 11 (via TracyJean)
Then it was time to introduce the main guests. Otter was introduced with a reference to his ability to hurl insults in several different languages. Loui was teased about being the only one not dressed in a suit - he had a coat thrown on over a t-shirt. Ralph decided to show his team spirit and how they are all there for each other by taking off his tie and giving it to Loui to wear so that he met the dress code. Mention was also made of Loui being robbed out of being named MVP of the All-Star game, and not one, but two cars (the one for MVP and the one that Phil Kessel got for being chosen last in the draft).
I wish I had thought to take some paper for notes, as I can't remember off the top of my head all the questions asked and their answers. Dejardins was asked about the whiteboard he carries on the bench - he joked that he uses it to block pucks shot over the bench. Kari answered a question about how he chose his latest mask design and what his most memorable one was. He said that aside from designs that he likes, he tries to chose designs which will appeal to the fans, especially kids. His favorite mask was the one with Heath Ledger as the Joker, which he chose right after seeing The Dark Knight. He also tied it to his old team in Finland, which was called the Jokerits.
They were all asked about how they prepare for shootouts, whether they watch video to get an idea of what opposing shooters do (for Kari) or how an opposing goalie might make a save (for Otter and Loui). They do, but sometimes they just have to wing it.
Otter answered a question about which teams or which players they really don't like to play against. He kind of hemmed and hawed, before the question was narrowed down to which player on the next team (Phoenix tomorrow night), at which point he threw out Keith Yandle.
Kari was a bit embarrassed when a question was asked (directed to Dejardins) about what kind of work they've been doing with the defense to address some of the defensive coverage issues which leave the goaltenders out to dry.
After the luncheon, the players hung around to interact with the fans and pose for pictures (you can find the ones I have at Flickr). I got pictures with Kari, coach Crawford, Loui and Otter. When my friend and I were talking to Crawford, we teased him about the "old coach Crawford". He joked that he's been trying to keep it under control since Joe is looking down from above on him. I mentioned the Chicago game in December, when he had gone off on the missed call in the last minutes of the game when Trevor Daley should have been awarded a penalty shot (for those of you who need a reminder, his rant on Stars Live after that game can be found here). He said that at the next game where Dean Morton officiated, they had a nice conversation about the missed call and an apology was tendered.
My friend also asked him about Jamie Benn's status (as I mentioned in another thread). He's hopefully they will have Benn back soon. Of course, I have to add this caveat - things may not go as planned. Benn may not be cleared for non-contact practice Friday as they hope. He may not move quickly (as Wandell has) from non-contact to full contact, which would mean he wouldn't be available for the Western Canada road trip starting next week. What Crawford gave us was the best-case scenario. He did sound optimistic, however. I hope he's right.
This is the first Dallas Stars' luncheon I've attended. I wasn't that thrilled with the food, but that's my personal preference (I'm not a steak person). The players were nice and personable, which anyone who has been around the Stars for a while knows is the norm. Most of the questions asked by the fans were very thoughtful, even if some of them prevaricated on the answers a bit. Jerry Jones was also the butt of several jokes about the weather before the Super Bowl and the mishaps at the game itself (Christina Aguilera, anyone?). Everyone had a good time, and I'm looking forward to the next one on March 22nd, with Brenden Morrow, Stephane Robidas, James Neal and assistant coach Charlie Huddy.