Dallas Stars: The abrupt pause in the season offers perspective

DALLAS, TEXAS - MARCH 07: Empty stands for the the Dallas Stars (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TEXAS - MARCH 07: Empty stands for the the Dallas Stars (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The sudden suspension of the season for the Dallas Stars–and all sports–helps us understand why we pay attention to begin with.

Dark times though these may be, there’s a bit of gallows humor intertwined with the Dallas Stars‘ season currently. It took a global pandemic to halt a season-worst, six-game losing streak. Less than a week ago, those of us who care deeply about this hockey club were fretting about their ever-tenuous grip on a playoff spot. Now, we’re left wondering if this season will be salvaged at all.

It’s not a fun time. The anxiety we were feeling about a game has shifted onto something much more substantial. I’m forty-five years old at the moment, and I’ve never seen anything like this during my time on this mortal coil. Lockouts and strikes have always been part of the business, but the arrival of COVID-19 on American shores has cast a pall on a huge aspect of our lives.

The decision for all major sports to be suspended–or in the NHL’s case, “paused”–puts into sharp focus how it’s all simply a distraction from our everyday lives. From a personal standpoint, this is my favorite time of the year. I’m an unabashed hockey guy. It’s mid-March. The regular season is supposed to be boiling down to the reward every hockey fan cherishes, and that’s the arrival of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

I’m biased, but for my sports dollar, the NHL’s second season is the finest postseason tournament in all of North America. Better than baseball, basketball, and yes, football. The hockey playoffs are great because a team simply has to make the tournament to have a chance. It can happen in football. Just ask Eli Manning. And to a lesser degree, it can happen in baseball. But it generally never happens in basketball.

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The level of parity in professional hockey suggests that an eight-seed in a given conference can win the Stanley Cup. It’s happened before, and within the past ten years. I’m not saying we won’t resume in a few weeks with some abbreviated version of the end of the regular season followed by a tournament of some sort. What’s sobering, though, is the general out-of-nowhere feeling that this one came from. Truth of the matter is, I’m really not sure what to do with my time. I’m used to the every-other-night tension  and grind of late season hockey. I’m also used to the general sense of disappointment over the last twelve years from the Dallas Stars. It might seem weird, but I miss it horribly.

As The Roots once said, it don’t feel right. Save for a few half-hearted attempts to fire up my PlayStation in recent days, I haven’t turned the TV on at all. Turns out that video games are my diversion from my diversion. I’m not a watcher of TV shows, save for “Letterkenny”, which I highly recommend because it’s hilarious. But I also generally find regular TV incredibly boring. However, I do find the push to the NHL playoffs intoxicating and mesmerizing. Former Dallas Stars’ play-by-play man Ralph Strangis once called the postseason “the original reality television”, and that has always stuck with me.

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Brighter days are ahead. Of that, I am certain. But right now this whole thing is just a kick to the gut. I want to agonize over whether or not the Dallas Stars are going to pull their heads out and win a game, because six losses in a row has me thinking about two years ago when they lost eight in a row and played themselves out of the tourney. I want to watch the standings and scoreboards on a nightly basis and stress over something much more mundane than what’s happening to the world right now.

  • Published on 03/16/2020 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 03/16/2020 at 10:51 AM