New franchise 101

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI

, Last Updated: 7:10 AM ET

When the Stars moved to Dallas 13 years ago, knowing how tough it would be to make inroads in a non-traditional market, they wanted to do more than attract fans.

They wanted to grow them. So they began building and operating rinks in the area, projects that don't make any money, but pay off with a steady stream of new players/fans.

"We run 15 rinks now," said team president Jim Lites. "It's hard and it takes a lot of work. I can't tell you how many city council meetings in Texas I've attended, trying to get deals done with communities to build hockey rinks for amateur hockey programs. But that's why this market can be sustained, because of the infrastructure in place. We're a hockey town."

Now Dallas is home to one of the busiest minor hockey programs in the United States, thanks in no small part to the Stars.

"The U.S. national champion 13 and under team is Dallas kids," said Lites. "Those are the kids who were born when we got here in 1993."

CLOTHES HOUND

Avs defenceman John-Michael Liles was aghast when he learned that Peter Forsberg called him his worst dressed teammate ever in a recent Sun Media Q and A. "What's he talking about?," Liles said in mock bewilderment. "Worst dressed teammate? Is he nuts? That's awful. Besides, Dan Hinote and I are part owners of a custom suit store and he buys stuff from us all the time. He's wearing the same things I am!"

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

So Jordin Tootoo's five-game suspension for sucker punching Dallas defenceman Stephane Robidas expires the very night Nashville plays Dallas. Nice work, Colie. If Campbell takes a look at the schedule and gives Tootoo six games, the Preds agitator might not see Dallas again until next season. Instead, they face a retaliation incident that could have easily been avoided. For a guy who's queasy about fighting, Campbell sure laid the table for a slugfest.

NETHER REGIONS

We understand St. Louis fans are still a little upset about last season's firesale, but that's no excuse for not knowing your geography. "Our favourite players were shipped off," Blues fan Keith Goding told the local paper. "Like Chris Pronger to the Netherlands or wherever." Netherlands? Edmonton is, like, nowhere near Holland ... Hockey analyst Barry Melrose has the Wings pegged perfectly: "It wouldn't surprise me at all if they win the West," he said. "And it wouldn't surprise me if they get beat in the first round." ... Dallas doesn't have a great track record in the playoffs recently, and neither does Detroit, but if they meet, take the Wings. Marty Turco is 1-8-5 against them.

WHO'S ON FIRST?

With trades and injuries, it's been a revolving door in St. Louis this season, so much so that Doug Weight can barely keep track. " I was calling for a drop pass the other day and I called the guy Whatsyername." ... Either they're hot or they're not. Carolina is 23-0-2 when leading after the first period this season ... Dale Hawerchuk never played a minute in Phoenix, but the Coyotes will be retiring his jersey April 5 for his service to the franchise when it was in Winnipeg ... Sharks coach Ron Wilson and Canes coach Peter Laviolette are good friends, but Wilson turned down a dinner invitation when San Jose visited Carolina last week. Why? "I didn't want to eat at MacDonald's," he joked.

DEAD HORSES

Are they having any fun in Boston? They're out of the playoff race, but coach Dave Lewis is really taking the whip to his dead horses. He's bag-skated them twice in the last eight days, once on a scheduled day off. On Monday, he ran them through a 45-minute practice without pucks, then made them stay at the rink watching the entire game film from Sunday's loss while he and the assistants took the bus back to the hotel.


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