Before October, if you wanted to buy a Dallas Stars-themed book, your options were limited to a 32-page children’s book, a 14-year-old commemorative book about the Stars after their Cup win, or a pretty blatant cash grab that is probably the exact same thing as this book with a quick search-and-replace run on it, but who can be sure* about that?
*I can. It arrives Monday.
But as of this month, you can finally read a comprehensive, well-researched book on all things Stars, written by someone who’s been covering hockey in Texas for the better part of the decade. Sean Shapiro’s 100 Things Stars Fan Should Know & Do Before They Die, published by Triumph Books, is the best book on Texas hockey that I’ve come across.
I was already familiar with the 100 Things series by Triumph, as I own Jon Weisman’s version about the Dodgers. Shapiro’s take is just as thorough as that one (which I enjoyed quite a bit), but with an even more journalistic take on the subjects he covers. Most everyone who reads DBD is familiar with Shapiro’s career covering the AHL’s Texas Stars before he moved on to covering the NHL team full-time. The book series may be a national one, but this iteration feels very rooted in Texas.
The book also benefits greatly from Shapiro’s ambitious approach. While some books like this can tend toward surface-level Buzzfeedy listicles, Shapiro’s version on the Dallas Stars—and by the way, there’s a large amount of North Stars content in here, too—is exhaustive, or at least as exhaustive as a book limited to 100 topics can be.
Take, for example, the multiple exclusive interviews the reader gets throughout the book with figures like Jim Lites, Mike Modano, Craig Ludwig, Bob Gainey, Ken Hitchcock, Les Jackson, Guy Carbonneau, or Shane Churla. While some of the Q&A sections will have answers more familiar to long-time fans—hockey people are well-versed in giving safe answers even in retirement—there are also a lot of specific nuggets in there I’d never heard before. (Did you know about the post-game celebrations with fans in “the tent”?)
It’s easy to throw around terms like “fun for new and old fans alike,” but with 100 Things Stars Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, it’s easy to see how Shapiro tried to write for a wider audience. Sure, you’ll get to re-live Jamie Benn’s Art Ross night and the 1999 Cup win, but you’ll also get chapters on Mark Parrish, Joel Lundqvist, Fabian Brunnström, and Jordie Benn.
My favorite part of this book might have been the sheer amount of material that Shapiro found a way to fit into the book with coherence. For example, there’s a guide to watching the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads—one of the most successful franchises in professional sports, by the way—that must have been written a while before the Stars held training camp out there this summer. But reading it through the lens of an NHL player like Tyler Seguin figuring out what to do with all the guys after a hard day of camp was a cool experience.
Honestly, just reading the second half of the chapter list will be enough to convince most fans that it’s worth the fifteen bucks outright. But after reading through the book itself, I’m not sure the chapter titles can even do it justice. There’s so much more in here than just a “who is this person” rundown or a quick recap of an interesting game. The chapter on the notorious John Spano’s nearly successful attempt to the purchase the Stars from Norm Green is particularly chilling in light of the Stars’ more recent bankruptcy under Tom Hicks. Franchises are only as stable as their ownership, as anyone who remembers the latter days of the Hicks era of the Stars (which gets it due in this book) can attest. Jim Lites’s story of a lunch that really raised his suspicions about Spano could probably be the beginnings of a book all its own.
Another thing that sticks out about the book is how broad Shapiro’s research is. Not only did he dig up old newspaper articles and media guides to add context to many of the chapters, but he also utilized everything from ESPN 30-for-30 films to In Goal Magazine, a book on Minnesota North Stars history, and even this very website (which is just about 10 years old, I am now realizing).
It’s hard to overstate just how many delightful little things will pop out while you’re reading this. If you want to know how Mike Modano’s 561 Kolsch beer came to be, this book has it all, including a cicerone-level review of the beer itself. If you’ve never heard the story of Jeff K’s infamous drop from the rafters at the 2007 All-Star Game in Dallas, you’ll get an (of course) exclusive interview on how it all, er, went down.
If there’s anything to criticize with the book, it probably has to do with Triumph’s editing. For a relatively large publisher, Triumph should have done a better job in the proofreading process, as even the most assiduous writer will surely need a third party to fix a typo or two after ten pages, let alone 256. As a digital author myself, I’m all-too-aware of how many typos will sneak into even a simple 500-word post no matter how many times I pore over my work (and, perhaps even this review itself). It’s definitely a minor quibble, but it’s one thing I didn’t love about the book, so this is me being objective. You’re welcome.
On the whole, there’s really no reason not to buy this book if you enjoy concentrated doses of Stars content. For all the entertainment value, though, you should also be prepared to get choked up in a couple of spots. The chapter on the late Dave Strader is heartwarming and bittersweet at the same time. Reading about Dave Zeis and a makeshift medical team’s quick actions to save Rich Peverley’s life took me right back to the spot in my old condo where I was watching the game that very night. Even the chapter about Pantera’s connection to the Stars had some unexpectedly somber notes for me in light of Vinnie Paul’s death earlier this year.
Whether you read the book from start to finish, pick out the less familiar topics to brush up on your Stars trivia to look smart to your seat neighbors at games, or just give it as a gift to your dad because you’re out of ideas and Stars merchandise is always a safe bet, I’d be hard-pressed to find a reason you’d regret picking up this book. Even if there wasn’t a dearth of Stars books on the market already, Shapiro’s approach is consistently worth reading. His work to build a strong narrative without compromising the facts makes a lot of chapters more gripping than they have any business being—again, there is a chapter on Mark Parrish in here that I really enjoyed.
In summary, if you’re someone who enjoys reading about hockey history, wants to know more about the Stars franchise, or just can’t believe that organized ice hockey has been happening in Texas since the 1920s and wants published proof, you should probably pick up the book. Shapiro is even happy to autograph your copy at Stars practices and games, and you can follow him on Twitter for information on upcoming signings.