All told, it's been a wonderful season to be a Dallas Stars fan. The league's leading offense has piled up the standings points, and last year's issues have been at least addressed if not universally solved. Comparisons to a certain squad from 17 years ago are inevitable given the record so far, which speaks to just how blissful a start the Stars enjoyed.
With all the glowing and effusive praise surrounding this flawed-but-fantastic team, what could be better than cheering for them? After all, Dallas is the perfect combination of entertainment and results. All hat with a good bit of cattle thrown in, if you will. What a year! Surely there's no wrong way to root for this team, right?
Wrong. There are many wrong ways to be a Stars fan, and you have probably been guilty of all of them. That's okay! Well, not "okay" in the sense that your fan sins are forgivable—they're not—but it soon will be okay for future fans, because I have compiled the major updates to a handy and helpful guide to how you can finally start Doing Things Right when unleashing your enthusiasm for the most wonderful team in the league.
So with that painful but necessary preamble complete, allow me to present
HOW TO BE (AND NOT TO BE) A DALLAS STARS FAN: THE OFFICIAL* MANUAL (Major Updates for the 16th Edition)
Note: All updates take precedence over previously issued editions of Dallas Stars Fan Manuals (note to self: can we get "Fanual" moving?) and Are Definitely Correct and Will Never Need to Be Updated Again, Just Like Last Time.
Preface: The most important thing about being a fan is that there is no wrong way to do it. It's all about rooting your team on whether you're sitting down with a cold one, jumping around inside the AAC, or streaming the game on your phone next to the gas pump. However, one thing to remember is that there are actually many wrong ways to be a fan, which you obviously didn't know when you read the first sentence of this paragraph and agreed with it. Still, take heart! This guide will educate as much as it chastens, and it will encourage almost (but not quite) as much as it scolds. This is for your benefit, and even more for the benefit of those fans (both of us) who actually Get It and Do Things Right. You're welcome.
Section 1: What to Wear
First, it is vital that all fans wear authentic game replica sweaters to the hockey game. This is because A) you have to show your support for your team! and, B) Where else are you going to wear it? You'll look like a lousy mook wearing a hockey sweater in a Denton Applebee's. Clearly the AAC is the most/only appropriate place to sport your sportswear.
If you're reading this, you obviously have at least one authentic game replica sweater hanging in your closet. That's great—but is it enough? It's tough to know which fans are the Real Fans at a game, because people can get a rip-off jersey from any Shady Schmo in a dark alley these days. Therefore, the Official Recommendation is to purchase (AT THE AAC ITSELF) and wear (AT THE AAC ITSELF) a home AND away sweater, leaving the tags on (especially the price tag) in order to let everyone know that you are a Real Fan. This is similar to how children enjoy leaving those stickers on their baseball caps, except this is not indicative of your being totally deranged.
Of course, a big question after you've bought your official sweaters for Gameday! is what name and number to put on them. Many people will opt for their last name with their birth year, which is a great little goof to pull on your fellow fans as they frantically rifle through their Gameday! program. However, this would get really confusing if the Stars ever ran short of players and had to conscript you from the stands (which is one of the main reasons everyone should get the sweaters with the fight straps if possible), because you might have the same birth year as another fan, meaning you would either have to change your number really quickly with masking tape or just lock the other fan in the utility closet when you're in the locker room changing for your big day.
Therefore, the Official Recommendation for what to put on your sweater is—what else?—the name and number of your favorite backup goalie of all time! Sure, you can sport your franchise cornerstones or your young stars who will be around for a while; you can even get a discount on Loui Eriksson sweaters in Victory Green that he never got the chance to wear (check your local Target). But at the end of the day, the object of fashion is to stand out and be noticed (more on this in the "Woo-ing" subsection). What's the point of spending money if everyone doesn't turn and look at you on Gameday! with a bemused expression? Grab that Raycroft game-worn sweater, that Nilstorp jersey with the sweat stains, that Thomas number-something with streaks of red from where his Florida pads brushed against it. Grab it, and wear it—and maybe wear your ((AUTHENTIC)) goalie pads underneath it, too. You can't be too prepared!
Ed. Note: My sweater collection consists of a dark "star" style, a white North Stars Neal Broten jersey, and a Connecticut Whale Yekaterina Smolentseva sweater. This is a terrible template for beginning your own collection.
Section 1, Sub-section A: Shirseys
Shirseys are a great way to show your support for your team when it's not Gameday! Heading to the local sock hop? Why not class up your poodle skirt/suit and skinny tie with a Jyrki Jokipakka special tee? Hey, it's Casual Friday at work! What could be more casual than casually wearing your old, holey Jon Klemm shirsey whilst hanging about the coffee-making area? "Oh, good morning Barbara. Or should I say, good morrow?" *Checks back of shirsey in bathroom mirror, realizes Brenden Morrow shirsey is still in the closet at home; curses*
Ed. Note: If anyone finds a Victory Green Klingberg Shirsey (size M), I need it for America and Freedom and an upcoming sock hop. Please contact me directly.
Section 1, Sub-section B: Halloween
The "puck-in-the-forehead" costume is a fresh and innovative idea that will really get some laughs. Definitely go for it.
Ed. Note: Seriously, I was at the Halloween game against San Jose, and it was just weird. We clearly need a standard. Are we wearing costumes? Stars gear over costumes? Stars-themed costumes? Hockey-themed costumes? Nixon masks with Stars pucks embedded in their foreheads? Get it together, folks.
Section 2: Cheering at the Game
You're at the game. Great job! You paid your money (or sneaked in through the locker room stowed away in your favorite player's stinky hockey bag), and you've earned the right to encourage your boys on the ice. Well, no. You have earned nothing. Nothing more, that is, than the temporary right to inhale from the communal supply of AAC oxygen—and even that has a limit (I'm looking at all you mouth-breathers out there).
You may remember the Dallas Stars Havoc Fanatic section. This was essentially a quarantined area for the worst sorts of nap-disrupters tucked into the upper bowl. There were drums, shouting, painted faces, and loads of sanctioned ruckus. It was essentially the "before" part of an advertisement for acid reflux medication. And while you couldn't ignore its ominous presence, it was at least restricted to a certain section, serving as a threat of potential relegation to all the would-be revelers in the expensive seats out there lest they get a bit too self-indulgent with their enthusiasm.
Today, we have new challenges, not the least of which is the MAKE SOME NOISE prompt used at every arena everywhere to convince the fans present to shout at each other. The upside of this activity could be an adrenaline boost for the players on the ice, who are by no means wholly inoculated to the effects of scripted screaming. Additionally, the MAKE SOME NOISE prompt presents the added benefit of Justifying Your Presence at the Game. No longer are you just a warm body whose admission fee helps to perpetuate the team's existence as you enjoy the action from up close; now, dear fan, you are Part of the Experience. You are loud, and many other people are loud, and the music is loud. That is what fans are for—to be Part of the Game—and you are now doing that! However, we called this a challenge for a reason, and that is because of the dangerous lessons the MAKE SOME NOISE prompt can impart to its audience. Allow me to elucidate in the following section.
Section 2, Sub-section A: Woo-ing
Yes, as we said, you are Part of the Game, and that is very, very important, you think. It just wouldn't be a hockey game if all you did was show up; watch the game; enjoy politely communing with your nearby fans; rejoice after goals, saves, hits and dekes; applaud at the start of a power play; and have yourself a tasty treat or two from the wonderful and competitively priced concession booths on the concourse. No, that sounds nigh-indistinguishable from attending a The Mamas and the Papas reunion concert at Honda Center. This is hockey, baby, and you need to display your rabid fandom with all of the no-holds-barred lunacy found in our species' most primal origins. Your mentality at this point is that if people eighteen sections away don't have their conversation about Kevin Hatcher interrupted by you, specifically you, then you have basically squandered your ticket money. Without leaving your mark in this way, you think, your ticket dollars will have been as efficiently spent as your kid's allowance on 2009 baseball cards.
So you stand up. You tilt your head back just so, waiting for the noise to die down around you. This is your stage, your moment. You can't simply wave your foam finger demurely like all of the proper fans, no sir. As the expectation builds in your immediate vicinity, you finally satisfy everyone's curiosity-turned-horror as realization dawns, and you let loose. You summon the breath from your lungs and expel—along with bits of reasonably priced snacks that had been trapped in the recesses of your teeth—a loud, piercing "WOOOO!" sound for everyone to enjoy.
It is difficult to overstate just how problematic your behavior is, but we should hasten to add that such "Woo-ing" is clear evidence that you have not read this Official Guide. In light of your ignorance, we have shown mercy up to this point. You are at least trying to make noise, even if it is hauntingly similar to a whale's mating call. But now that you've read this sub-section of the Official Guide (Fanual), you know better. You will save your nature sounds and zoo noises for moments of jubilation, adding them to the throng of your compatriots rather than planting your flag of mindless cacophony in this sea of hockey tranquility.
Ed. Note: This sub-section replaces Subsection A in the 15th Edition entitled, "Would Someone Please Come to the Games and Make Some Noise Anyone Seriously we Are Begging You Marc Crawford Is the Coach and We Have Lost All Hope Just One Loud Noise Would Make Us Feel So Much Better."
Section 2, Sub-section B: "WHO CARES?"
In many National Hockey League arenas around this great country of ours and Canada as well, fans will sometimes have a good time with the Public Address announcer by screaming something like, "How much time is left!" right before the 1:00 mark of the period. It's a fun little activity which makes it sound as though the announcer's subsequent "One minute remaining in the first period" declaration sound as if it is meant to answer the previously shouted question. What fun! Unfortunately, many of us can't be bothered to keep track of the clock, and we miss out on this diverting little activity. Are you disappointed whenever this happens? Well, have I got news for you!
The Public Address announcer will also (eventually) make a public announcement (per his title) crediting any goal scorers and their assistants. This usually takes place shortly after the resumption of play following the goal. It's a fun time for fans to cheer a goal all over again when their hometown heroes are announced. However, the sad part of this is that every now and then, the other team scores a goal. Oh no! And, as if the goal itself weren't bad enough, the announcer then proceeds to read a roll call of the involved scorer(s) just as the wound is starting to heal. It's cruel and unusual, but it has been a part of hockey since time immemorial, or at least since loudspeakers were invented in 1992. There is good news, though: you don't have to just sit there and listen to it.
This is where you, the Fans, come in. When the visiting team's scorers are announced, it has become tradition at Dallas Stars Hockey Games to respond with, "WHO CARES!" How delightful, indeed. Not only does this response show that you don't give a rip that Connor McDavid just scored his first NHL goal—we're all about Dallas goals, baby, and no one else's!—it also has the possibility of hurting the visiting team's feelings a bit. Oh, great job there Mr. Hockey Guy, you scored a goal, and you probably think it was impressive. Well, guess what? It was not impressive, not to us. We couldn't care less who was responsible for that piddly little tally! This is why we are all shouting really loudly. Also, probably this helps to encourage the Stars to score more goals, too. Then fans can join in the less-popular-but-still-delightful "THAT IS WORTH CARING ABOUT!" refrain following Stars' scoring announcements. What could be more fun than that?
* "Official" in the sense that I wrote this first, so if anyone has a different opinion, they are wrong. That's what forensics class taught me, at least.