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2011-12 Dallas Stars Season: Brandon's Personal Year In Review

I'm a fan.
I'm a fan.

We're wrapping up our 2011-2012 Dallas Stars season analysis this month here at Defending Big D. As part of our wrap-up, we're trying something a little unique and different to end the season. Over the next week or two, each of the DBD staff members will be writing a personal perspective on the season that was. It's going to be cathartic, sometimes witty, sometimes funny, and hopefully won't include anymore almost-arrests like Taylor had this season.

This past year has been very interesting for me, personally. It has been a year of major changes, of big steps forward and a few steps back and times when I felt the stress and upheaval of everything that was going on around me would become too much to handle. Through it all, however, I had the Dallas Stars and the joys, triumphs and disappointments of another season that was over much too quickly.

This time last year I was on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, working in an environment I hated at a job I wasn't good at and only two things kept my hopes for the future high: the girlfriend I loved so dearly and the website and team that have become such a big part of my life. For many, my presence on the oil rig was but a humourous footnote but for me personally, it was an experience I'm glad I had but will never go through again. It was a job that paid well, but it also took me away from my family and those I cared about and after 10 years in the Navy, I knew that this was not what I wanted for my life.

Since then, I've since moved to Ohio, back to Houston and then moved from one place in Houston to another. I've started going back to school full time. I got married to my wonderful girlfriend and I gained a daughter in the process. Just over a month after the wedding, we learned that we would be expecting another come October. I have already purchased the infant onesie and cap from the Dallas Stars store.

For many reasons, this past season for the Stars was incredibly memorable for those of us that follow this team so closely. Through all the changes and upheaval in my life, I always have my fanaticism and dedication to fall back on and it's something I cherish and hold dear. What do I remember most about this past season and what will I never forget?

Where do I start?

For obvious reasons, my love for the Dallas Stars is tied directly to this website and the community that has been built here. I have always been the biggest fan of anyone I know but my fandom has always felt different that what I see in other people I meet. I don't have a ton of Stars memorabilia. I've only owned two Stars jerseys in my entire life (Turco and Benn) and the only thing I really have a lot of is Stars t-shirts -- and those are being replaced by shirts from the DBD store.

Instead, my approach as a fan has always been one of a deeper level of scrutiny, optimism and die-hard loyalty. I define myself as a fan because of the internal passion I felt for this team every single day since 1993, how the Stars never leave my mind and how -- no matter what I might be doing -- what is happening with the Stars is always in the back of my thoughts and ever-present.

When I was in the Navy and overseas for 7-9 months at a time, or on deployment for weeks at a time up and down the East Coast, the torture I felt at not being able to be the fan I wanted to be was excruciating. I would get email updates now and then but for the most part these were just scores and nothing else. Ironically, the schedule of my submarine changed in 2004 and I was actually going to have the chance to be home for most of the 2004-2005 season -- which just happened to get canceled.

This is one of the reasons I created this site, because I know that there are Dallas Stars fans all over the United States and around the world and not just having a reliable news source, but an actual community of fans to interact with, is invaluable to those that don't have the ability to be in Dallas. I wanted to build a community where those around the world could connect to those closest to the team and I am proud to say that I feel we have accomplished this.

For me, this past season and this past year will not only be defined by what happened on the ice. This past season was about how this website and this community connected more people in more ways than I ever thought possible. We have loyal readers from the U.K., Finland, Sweden, Russia and even some in India. We have readers and fans from all over the United States and the privilege of getting to interact with such a diverse fanbase is an honor I never believed I would feel.

I think back to everything that has happened in my life this past year and how now, despite the disappointments of the actual Stars season, I am incredibly proud to have been a part of something special that continues to grow. When we went to Austin a few moths back to see the Texas Stars, the overwhelming support from fans there was something we never expected. Meeting people at the AAC and hearing their stories of how they became fans of the Stars and how they've come to love this community as well -- this is what keeps up working so hard.

Because I have to admit -- this is not easy.

Defending Big D has become, in many ways, my life. There are times when the Stars are struggling and things just aren't going well and the fanbase is upset and fans are angry that it's tough to sit down and find something to write about, something to say that hasn't already been said. When the season ended, even though we had gone through this three times before, I don't think I was prepared for the letdown the end of the season would bring.

When the final game against St. Louis ended in April, it felt like only a few weeks had passed since we were discussing the optimistic future of this team during training camp and the preseason. I didn't want the season to end, I didn't want the incredibly fun season with the site to end and I didn't want to have to say goodbye to the Stars for another long offseason.

I think that, for many reasons, we personally feel the pain, anger and disappointment of the Stars fanbase and react to that. When fans are upset I want to find a way and a reason to pull everyone away from the ledge. When something bad happens with the team I don't think of how bad that particular issue might be -- I immediately think of how the fans will react.

I am a Dallas Stars fan because I love hockey and I love the team but more than anything -- I love our fans. We are a group of hockey-crazed nuts in Texas (and all over) that root for a team that many feel has no business being in Dallas. We feel disconnected in many ways from the rest of the NHL and I think that is what brings us together. We've seen over the past few years how there is a divide between the hardcore and the casual and those that read this site daily definitely fit into the former category.

What about the actual Stars season? It was certainly one we'll never forget. Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson reaching new levels of badassery, Kari Lehtonen proving many people wrong, Glen Gulutzan showing how he's capable of learning and adapting and of course -- this franchise finally getting sold to an owner who is committed to excellence.

There's still a lot left to accomplish. What I've been saying all year long is more true today than ever before.

This is only the beginning. This past season was frustrating in many ways, but we fan finally look to the future with optimism and hope and talk about change, improvement and finding success.

For those of us that have stuck together through these down times, the taste of success and triumph will be all the more sweeter when it finally comes. We have been there through the down times and we stayed the course, never faltering and when the day finally comes that the Dallas Stars are back on top -- we can say that we never left and we can hold our heads high as fans.

This has been the craziest year of my life. And I thank you all for being right there with me along for the ride.