Stars discussing hockey game at AT Stadium

OK, you were fine when they held the Heritage Classic back in 2003 and started the craze of outdoor regular season hockey games. It was in Edmonton against Montreal and was played in freezing cold weather, so it made sense.

You really didn’t even have a problem with Buffalo or Chicago or Boston or Philadelphia. They’re hockey cities, with people who grew up playing on the pond.

But the NHL is holding six outdoor hockey games this year six! including one at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. So when does Dallas finally get one? It’s a question many Stars fans are asking, and one that will require just a little more patience.

“We are in the very early stages of talks and planning, and we expect to make some headway during the Olympic break, but it’s still a few years away,” Stars president and CEO Jim Lites said. “Just guessing, I would say 2015 16 at the earliest, and more realistically 2016 17.”

The Stars have several issues they have to deal with in trying to draw an outdoor game to Texas. One, they need the excitement of hockey to be up. And two, they need the national interest in the Stars to be up. Unfortunately, neither of those things is happening just yet.

Dallas entered Tuesday’s play ranked 20th among 30 teams in the standings at 24 21 8 and is on pace to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season. The Stars sit 27th in home attendance at 14,212 per game. While new ownership is in place, as well as a new general manager and a new coaching staff, the rebuilding project is just getting started.

“Look, we think we’ve made a lot of inroads with fans, with advertisers and with the grassroots hockey effort at the youth level, but it takes time,” Lites said. “So, honestly, now is not the time for us to try to attract a game like that.”

Lites said any Dallas spectacle would probably have to be held in AT Stadium simply because the events are unique, and the draw of the stadium would be a good pull for a national audience. He also said the biggest fear for a game in Texas is rain, and AT Stadium has a retractable roof.

“I think you can talk about the Cotton Bowl or the ballpark [Rangers Ballpark in Arlington], but in the end it makes the most sense to look at Cowboys Stadium,” Lites said. “You have the safeguard against rain, plus I think an event of this magnitude needs that building. It can be a huge part of the draw in itself.”

Still, can a hockey game in Texas draw 100,000 people?

“Sure, 100,000 would be great,” Lites said, “but I think we would be looking at more like 70,000 just make sure they’re filled up on each side.”

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guru Dan Craig received high marks for his work in Los Angeles, suggesting that ice shouldn’t be an issue in January in Texas one hurdle that has been overcome in just the last year or so.

Also, there are options outside of the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. While the four game Stadium Series that ends on March 1 could end up being a one time experiment, it certainly opens the door for cities like Dallas, which might not have had the sway to pull off the Jan. 1 game.

At the very least, it brings the Stars into the conversation.

“We’ve been very busy with a lot of things here, so this has sort of been in the background,” Lites said. “But as we get things in order, we’re hoping to start moving ahead with it.”

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