See I’m lonely, but that’s all right with me
And I’m tired, but hell I’ll always be
And my savior done abandoned me
She kissed me once, and that’s all I’ll need
To live off of her memory
It’s a long way from the cordoned-off island of Edmonton to the real world, eh?
The reigning Western Conference champions were never going to have an easy time of things this year, particularly in a new division, in a shortened season, without Tyler Seguin or Ben Bishop for much of the year. But now we have to reckon with the fact that the selfsame virus that led to the fanless frenzy this summer has now delayed even a modified season just a few days more.
Nothing ever goes according to plan these days, not really. I don’t even know what plans look like anymore, beyond a rough outline for the next day. So many times over the past several months has my workday or my weekend or my personal life been sharply rerouted thanks to COVID-19, and that was back when Capitol Police Officer wasn’t a profession with a high risk of mortality. Life just doesn’t have the same taste it used to, in a not insignificant sense.
And yet, we’ve reconciled ourself to this, to some degree. We adapt and acclimate and move forward, if we can muster the energy, because what else can we do? What else can the Dallas Stars do, come to that, other than sit and wait for things to get better? Eventually, they will play hockey again, Ben Bishop and Tyler Seguin included. We may not know when but most of us are fortunate enough to be able to ask “when” instead of “if” when it comes to a lot of our lives.
Writing for this site never really went according to plan, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. Back in July of 2014, I thought the Stars had the goaltending and the young talent to make this team the next Chicago Blackhawks, which was a compliment at the time. I was passionate about Alex Goligoski and Brendan Dillon, and then the Stars went and grabbed Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky to juice their team even further. Things started a tad rough, but then John Klingberg made his debut, Jason Demers arrived, and the next couple of years were a gas, even with the heartbreak.
I remember thinking midway through the 2015-16 season, when the Stars were setting NHL records for empty-net goals, that you just never really know when a good thing is going to be really good. In fact, one of the best things about sports is that seasons are long, so there usually comes a point before the tension and likely disappointment of the playoffs where you can just look around and bask in wonder and gratitude for the way things lined up.
A phrase I heard from the first time is college is, “Don’t sacrifice the good for the sake of the perfect.” How much more true is that, these days? I don’t even know what an ideal Friday night could possibly look like anymore while we sit here without the ability to have parties, without something as stupidly fun as karaoke, without ordering a flight of beer with a close friend and just lingering on our personal island of camaraderie within the crowd. I think I even miss the insane prices of the AAC food, but probably this is a cry for help.
Eventually, things will begin to change again. To expect normalcy as we used to define it is probably chasing a ghost, but ask anyone who’s been with the same person for decades, and they’ll tell you that it’s not about reaching perfection and just sitting there, but about finding ways to weather the insanity of life with people who help you through it. And while we can be around fewer people than ever before, there has still been a metric ton of good people finding ways to be good to people over the past 10 months. Look for the good, even when things aren’t.
When Jim Montgomery got fired last season, everything seemed precarious. The organization could have fallen into disrepair again at the most critical time; another Marc Crawford could have been brought into the room in the name of a quick fix.
Instead, Rick Bowness was given the helm, and while nobody is going to mistake him for Jon Cooper, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player in that room who can think of a more perfect coach for everything last season brought than the good man who hates hats, Rick Bowness. Even with all the bad, from the start of the year to March’s dud, to the restart, last season was a big ol’ gift of goodness no one could have expected.
This season will bring some goodness too, even if it’s not what we might want or hope for. The Stars will probably not win the Stanley Cup, because every team probably won’t, when you calculate the odds. That’s why you just keep hoping and trying to do good things. That’s why the players who stick in the league the longest are the ones who just try to do good things on each shift. So much of where the puck is on the ice will be out of your control, but just keep looking for the good things you can do, and just keep skating so that, when that moment comes, you’re where you ought to be.
I wrote for this site for five absurd years before I even got to interview a player, and trust me, it wasn’t because I was constantly grinding out amazing material and angling for that Beat Reporter niche with nonstop work. Instead, I was in the right place at the right time, and I had “kept skating” for long enough to where, when I accidentally bumped into the wrought iron shoulder that belongs to Joe Sakic at a preseason game in September of 2019, I felt nothing but gratitude (and a bit of soreness). Of course I didn’t “deserve’ to be there, but the fact was, I was there. It was up to me, then, to make the best of it. I haven’t always done that, but if I’ve ever come close to justifying the trust placed in me as an author here, it’s because of the good people around me helping me find my way through the woods.
I don’t know who “deserves” privileges like that; certainly I don’t. But the rain (and snow!) falls on the good and bad alike. So many people are suffering right now, and it sometimes feels crippling to me that I can’t even hug or be hugged because of the perverse potential for that act to cause more suffering. But it would be foolish of me to despair for the changes we’ve seen since March without also expressing gratitude for just how sweet life has been to me, particularly when it comes to hockey.
Because of this place, I’ve met so, so many wonderful people. Some of those people made my birthday last summer a time of overwhelming sweetness and laughter, even sitting ten feet apart in 100-degree heat. Some other people have been kind and generous and frank with me, humbling and delighting me when I’ve needed it more than they knew. Still others have made me laugh about as hard as it’s possible to laugh. You know who you are.
Something I’m really grateful for, as we sit and wait for the 2021-21 season to get started, is that we were able to do the DBD meetup before the Winter Classic in the Before Times. I got to meet a lot of wonderful people throughout the night, and I got to have a conversation with a guy named Frank that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Truly, we don’t know how much we mean to each other, how much we are capable of doing to make life bearable and even enjoyable by simply doing what we love. That night was a gift, and the Winter Classic itself was a bonanza of gratuitous love for hockey, for the Stars, and for each other.
Online forums like this one are known for their frequent arguments in the comments, for the running jokes, and for the potential to commiserate with people who might have nothing else in common but the peculiar investment in this particular team. But, it turns out, there’s always one more tie that binds us: we need each other.
Whatever this season brings, don’t be cynical. Don’t forget how much we can be there for each other, how much potential there is to bring goodness to places where people never hope to receive it. If we ever have occasion to be in the AAC together again, think about asking that usher how they’ve been holding up in the midst of the horrible disruptions in their formerly reliable work life, you know?
I’ve seen so many beautiful comments on this website, right beside the self-pity and frustration we sometimes stoke when the chips are down. I’m talking lovely, kind posts, where people offer a ticket to someone who needs it, or where someone shares their e-mail with someone visiting town who doesn’t know the lay of the land so they can make their trip a bit more special. This is who we can be, as a community, if we choose. That is what I will take away from this website, more than anything: the sheer kindness of so many people, both within the organization and without. Hopefully by now you’ve had occasion to experience the wonderful generosity of so many people here and in the Dallas area, but if not, trust me: there is a lot there, if you ask. And sometimes even if you don’t.
I’m stepping away from DBD before the season gets going for two reasons:
First, because my day job is wonderful but very hard, and it deserves my full attention now, more than ever. I have the great privilege of working with children in the world of education, but never has that responsibility been more complex than this year. This is a critical time in a lot of ways, and I can’t abide the thought that I would do it less well than I ought to because I stayed up too late writing about Andrej Sekera and Justin Dowling (both of whom are fine people, by the way).
Second, because this site is too special of a place for someone to half-ass it. Taylor has put this place on her back for a long time now, and it wouldn’t be right for me to be popping in and out when there are surely tons of y’all* who could step in and use the space to do wonderful things and make the whole team stronger.
*Except for Wes, who probably smells like moldy pork rinds, I am guessing, still haven’t met that tool, his fault probably.
So, I guess I just want to end this self-indulgent excuse for a post by saying thank you to everyone who read anything I wrote, and particularly those people who reached out to me over the last 6+ years with a word of any kind. It’s been a gas, and I’ll never forget y’all. If I start writing again someday, hopefully y’all find my work and continue to push me to not do quite as terrible a job. Frankly, it’s the least you could do.
Hockey is at its best when it resembles peak Aleš Hemský: everything seems a little odder than it has any right to be, but somehow it works, sometimes it surprises you, and once in a while, it changes the way you think about the world.
Love y’all. Thank you for making this place special. See ya around.