by Joe Pelletier
Dallas Stars are leading the league as a first class organization in many ways off the ice. One small example - they are bucking the trend on paperless season tickets. Instead, they pamper their season ticket holders with a box of gifts as well as the traditional tickets. One of the gifts to surprise their clients this year is the new book Texas On Ice: Pro Strides To The Stars.
The book looks at the history of professional hockey in Texas from 1942 through to 1993 when the Dallas Stars arrived. They thoroughly have it all from the Houston Apollos to the Amarillo Wrangers to the Fort Worth Texans to Gordie Howe's Houston Aeros.
The book is beautifully laid out with amazing action photography, both in color and in black and white. The text compliments the photos nicely with text that recaptures the characters, the rivalries and the Texan hockey heroes of yesterday. A statistical package completes the book perfectly.
The book is a group effort funded by the Dallas Stars, though hockey book fans will recognize the executive director of the project: Jason Farris.
Farris has been lauded here at HockeyBookReviews.com for his wonderfully produced personal projects in the past, such as Hail Cesare: Trail through the NHL, Hockey Play by Play: Around The NHL with Jim Robson, and most especially Behind The Moves: NHL General Managers Tell How Winners Are Built.
Mr. Farris was a rising hockey author who was funding personal projects that put big publishing houses to absolute shame. Then he disappeared. Sort of. He moved to Dallas in 2012 and became the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the NHL Stars. I should have been nicer to him when he was just a "nobody" in Vancouver, eh?
How does a hockey book author become EVP and COO of a NHL team? Well in his spare time he graduated from MIT's Sloan School of Management. That was after earning Political Science and Physics degrees here in Canada. The dude is legit. The Dallas Stars - and the entire NHL - is better off for it.
Where does he find time to produce such a high quality hockey book like Texas On Ice? "You can accomplish a lot between the hours of midnight and 4am," he told me. I believe it!
This is actually the second book in the Texas On Ice series. Last year season ticket holders received the book Texas On Ice: Early Strides To Pro Hockey and the 1941-42 American Hockey Association Season.
The audience for this book is a lot more limited. Not a lot of people remember hockey in 1941-42, let alone the AHA which featured the Dallas Texans and the Fort Worth Rangers. But every hockey fan should see this book, and then demand their favorite teams have such a wonderful remembrance of some significant events of the past.
Farris' team bring back all the action and the memories exactly as they played out back then - through the clippings of the newspaper. It's such a unique presentation, where basically the past is brought back to life. I seriously love this book!
by Greg Oliver
September 21, 2017
Society for International Hockey Research, sihrhockey.org
Deep in the Heart of Texas
When one thinks about sports in the great state of Texas, hockey doesn't come to mind. Jason Farris, the Chief Operating Officer of the Dallas Stars, is out to change that with the publication of two books that went out to season ticket holders, but that are also available to the general public.
The first of two Texas on Ice books is entitled Early Strides to Pro Hockey and the 1941-42 American Hockey Association Season, and deals with hockey in the late 1800s, into the rise of roller skating in North America – the world's largest indoor roller skating rink was in Texas – before heading into the 1920s and the Dallas Ice Kings, as well as teams in Houston and San
Antonio, wrapping up with the first pro teams in the state ? the 1941-42 Dallas Texans and Fort Worth Rangers of the AHA. The second is Pro Strides to the Stars: The 1942-43 to 1992-93 Seasons, which is a little more familiar to most fans, with CHL and USHL teams and even the championship WHA squad in Houston.
Both are solid, well-researched and concrete proof that hockey indeed has a deep history in the Lone Star State. As the steward of a team putting together the books, Farris laid out the plan. But even he came away with new knowledge.
“Outdoor shinny on the frozen Trinity River in 1899, that surprised me,” said Farris over the phone, during a rare down moment in a busy off-season for the Stars. He's referring to the lengthy river which winds its way through Texas, and into Fort Worth. “But really, the quality of hockey that was actually played here in the '20s, most of them were former Canadians that were maybe in the army or in the air force, so had come down here or made their way down here, and then they cobbled together locals and whatnot and played some pretty good hockey in front of 3,500 fans in the '20s. That's quite something.”
It's not like Farris didn't know his hockey either. Born in Vancouver, B.C., in 1967, he was a Canucks fan through and through. He loved playing goalie when young, but plays forward these
days in local men's league games. For many years, he was a referee for minor hockey.
Away from the rink, Farris got a degree in physics from the University of British Columbia, followed by a degree from the University of Toronto in political science. He added an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He's been a member of the Society for International Hockey Research for over 20 years.
Along the way, Farris got into writing about hockey, including Hail Cesare! with goalie great Cesare Maniago; the acclaimed Behind The Moves: NHL General Managers Tell how Winners are Built; Hockey Play-By-Play: Around the NHL with Jim Robson; and the hard-to-find (since it was presented by Budget Brake and Muffler and sold exclusively at London Drugs in B.C. as a fundraiser) Hockey Play-by-Play: Canuck Captains with Jim Robson.
But perhaps knowing how little money there seems to be in writing -- especially since all the books were put out by his production company, circaNow Media (www.circanow.com) -- Farris always had other gigs, including executive positions in financial services, software, publishing and online media. Until joining the Stars, Farris was President and CEO of Citizens Bank of Canada.
When Tom Gaglardi bought the troubled Stars franchise in 2011, Farris was brought in, and his wife Sarah, and their children, Jane and Owen, came along for the ride. One of the things that surprised him was how many rinks the team operated. “We own or operate more sheets of ice than any NHL team in the league. We currently operate 14 sheets of ice and we've got another three that are under development right now. So we're very active in the local hockey community and market at the kids level. Coming from Canada, you always have visions of crazy, hunched-over men in the 1900s wearing stockings with hickory sticks and whatnot, and it does really get you to think, well, we've got close to 20 sheets of ice here, we've got people being drafted into the NHL from here. Where did this all start? Were there funny little men with hickory sticks and pyjamas playing on frozen ice somewhere? That led us to begin to research, and that first book really pointed back to some wonderful stuff in the 1800s and the rise of the first rinks, indoor rinks, in Texas, and the first teams in the '20s.”
He's excited for the Dallas Stars over the next five to seven years. “When we came here in 2011, this was a team purchased out of bankruptcy that had been under league control for a couple of years and had really lost its way, and missed playoffs for five straight years, and season ticket holders had winnowed down. Yet it’s in a phenomenal market and really there's such a rich tradition of hockey here in Texas, including the Stars' very rich history with a Cup and some pretty dominant teams through the end of the last decade.” For every asset there was a “frayed end” that they had to deal with. Things are looking up. “We feel like we're in a spot to contend and compete for a Cup again for a number of years."
A big reason for the books is to educate the fan base, sure, but it's also to reengage fans of past teams. In fact, those older fans were essential in the Texas on Ice books. “Most of the content in there has never been seen before,” said Farris. “There's a lot of artifacts that we pulled from a lot a places that had been buried for a very long time. There's some good, old material in there.”
There's something in there for everyone, the various CHL teams like the Dallas Black Hawks and Fort Worth Wings, or the WHA's Houston Aeros, and a couple of shifts of lesser-known teams in smaller leagues.
“There's a pretty rich history here and certainly going between Dallas and Fort Worth, you don't have to scratch very hard for people to remember hockey in the '60s and '70s here as being a golden time, with a fierce rivalry between Dallas and Fort Worth. All that makes you realize what was going on here is like what was going on elsewhere, and there's good levels of hockey.”
The first book has a lot of newspaper clippings simply because there was less memorabilia to fill the pages. That is certainly not the case in book two.
“There are a lot of people that lived through that next 50 years up until the arrival of the Stars. A lot of our fans we know went to Dallas Black Hawks games and sat with their grandfather or sat on the knee of their dad or whatever, so I think there's going to be a lot of people that come out of the woodwork on this one -- and we've already seen it with memorabilia and artifacts and stories and whatnot. I think it'll be quite fun to see.”
The response from those who have gotten the book didn't surprise Farris. “The reaction was kind of as we expected, which was, 'Hmm, who knew?' I mean, a lot of this is dusty old history of course, and most people in our fan bases didn't live it. But I think there were a lot of people throughout the state that were intrigued by it, and, like I say, 'Geez, who knew that there were 3,500-seat indoor ice rinks in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas in 1926.'”
Officially Farris was the executive producer of the books, where he established the table of contents and had a rough page by page plan. He hired and assigned the writers (Mike Miller, Jeremy Rasmussen, Timothy Gassen, Doug Allan, Ed Reusch) and worked with his sister-in-law, Adrienne Painter, on the design. Both books relied on sponsorship to happen as well, and the business side is also one that Farris is more than comfortable with, so he worked on those deals.
The team just announced the Texas Hockey History Center, which will be a 5,000-square foot display of history and artifacts to the renovated Dr Pepper StarCenter in Farmers Branch rink, Texas, that the Stars operate (located between the downtown American Airlines Center and the team’s practice facility in Frisco). The target is to open it by next June, in time for the NHL draft coming to town, and to coincide with the team's 25th year in Dallas. The facility will also house the Dallas Stars Alumni Center.
Farris, while a relative newcomer to Texas, is already showing some of the confidence the state is known for, and offers up a surprising fact: “We're the only state in the country, and in fact Canada can't lay claim to this, to have won all eight of the major professional hockey trophies. So who would have thought Texas was the only state to do that? There's just lots of cool history.”
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