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At the Rink: Inside the Dallas Stars' Wild Month of March

19/04/2021

At the Rink: Inside the Dallas Stars' Wild Month of March Team played six games in 11 days, 12 games in one month after sudden snowstorm By Kristian Hernandez, Associate Editor

Monday, April 19, 2021 - 3:09 pm

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The National Hockey League was the last of the four major U.S. sports leagues to host a non-bubble regular season. As fans gradually make their return to the seats, how is that affecting in-venue productions and digital content? Similar to At the Ballpark, On the Gridiron, and On the Hardwood, At the Rink looks at the operations of NHL organizations to see how they are coping with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and adapting to a sense of normalcy.

2021 has been a welcome sign for many in the National Hockey League, but down in the Lone Star State, the new year began with a couple of hiccups. After abnormally-cold weather that turned into a winter storm with a lot of snow and a brief COVID-19 outbreak, the Dallas Stars were forced to postpone many of their early home games. Through the diligent work of Director, Game Presentation Kevin Harp and his staff, the in-venue team were able to produce shows for six games in 11 days and 12 total in the month of March.

I've never worked in baseball and always imagined that it was a lot [to handle] with so many games, but I feel like I got a taste of it, he says. It was definitely a challenge.

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The 2019-20 campaign was definitely one to remember. Aside from the roller coaster ride that occurred after the stoppage and resumption of the season, the duo of Jamie Benn and Joe Pavelski led the Stars to their first Stanley Cup appearance since the turn of the century in 1999-2000. Although the squad was defeated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games, the franchise wanted to honor them by raising the Western Conference Championship banner during the first home game of the 2021 schedule on Friday, January 22. At the time, without staffers being present in either bubble of the NHL playoffs and only a couple of preseason games, the team hadn't produced a home game at American Airlines Center since Tuesday, March 10, 2020.

Opening night was a bit different for us, says Harp. We almost had to be in mid-season form, but we just didn't have any of that since we haven't played [at home] in 10 months.

One of the biggest obstacles that needed to be addressed was creating an atmosphere that would draw emotion out of their fans. During any ceremony, music plays a vital role in getting the crowd into the desired mindset. After former DJ, Michael Grubes Gruber, accepted a new role with the nearby Texas Rangers, Harp worked with their new DJ, Music Director Jonathon Shippy Shipman, to get through this special moment in franchise history.

We had a lot on our plate, says Harp. We ended up winning 7-0, and that definitely helped a lot, but it was an opening night like never before. [Shipman] did really well that night and he's done well all season long, so I'm pretty happy with how he's progressed.

An Action-Packed March: Team Hosts Long Stretch of Home Games After Sudden Snowstorm The Stud Finder is one way that the franchise is integrating their sponsors.

The current season's structure accounts for a handful of consecutive home games, but the Stars experienced a situation that can be daunting for any trained production professional. The inclement weather forced many professional and collegiate teams around the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area to reschedule games. The Dallas Mavericks, the other organization that plays in American Airlines Center, were impacted by this same winter pattern. Luckily, the NBA franchise only hosted five games in March, which left the venue's operations team with more breathing room to work with. From a production perspective, the club decided to deliver a more straightforward show that didn't involve themed elements.

We made sure we didn't have any theme nights that were running concurrently in one of these blocks of home games, says Harp. We came together and realized that theme nights take a lot of extra work, so our strategy paid dividends for us.

After the final contest of the month against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, March 28, the hellish stretch of games was finally over. Navigating a hefty number of games became a herculean effort to pull off, but the experience showcased the determination and passion of the entire crew.

Walking out of [the arena] after that last game, we were all worn out, he adds. We're all extremely glad that it
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2021/04/19/at-the-rink-inside-the-dallas-s...
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