With a nod to that noted great modern philosopher Forrest Gump, the Dallas Stars hosting a home game at American Airlines Center on New Year’s Eve goes together like peas and carrots.
Even with their 6-3 loss at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, the Stars still hold the best record in all of the National Hockey League, which means that this year’s Dec. 31 date with their Central Division bunkmate Nashville Predators has added meaning.
Not only will the Stars be looking to finish the calendar year with yet another victory, but third-year head coach Lindy Ruff and company will also be in search of another key divisional win – something no team can have too many of once the regular season dwindles come late spring.
This year’s date for the Stars will also be different for another reason, it will not have the Big D NYE event in AT&T Plaza to piggyback off of – so how will the absence of that event impact the crowd, if at all?
Well, in past years, when the Stars have not been at the top of the league standings, not having that event in the plaza might have adversely impacted game attendance, as some of those people coming for the NYE celebration were people who weren’t hockey fans and wouldn’t normally come to a Stars game.
But since they were going to be right outside ringing in the New Year, these non-hockey fans or even casual fans figured, “why not check out a hockey game for something different”?
Of course, with the Stars winning and Dallas being a winner’s town, attendance has not been an issue for most of this season, and this first meeting of the season with the 18-12-7 Predators figures to be a sure-fire sellout, no matter whether or not there is a ball dropping right outside the doors of the AAC or not.
Seeing Nashville for the first time this season is also significant because it was against the Preds in last season’s finale on Victory Avenue that Stars captain Jamie Benn delivered a four-point performance to capture the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s regular-season points leader – one of the few highlights from a disappointing 2014-15 campaign that saw Dallas miss the playoffs.
For the record, the Stars have hosted the Preds on the final day of the calendar year once before, defeating them 1-0 in 2007 under Dave Tippett. Overall, Dallas is 11-4-2 on New Year’s Eve and has won the last three games on the 31st, most recently blitzing Tippett’s Arizona Coyotes 6-0 in 2014.
In total, the Stars have had a home game on New Year’s Eve 16 times since moving to Dallas in 1993. Not counting lockout seasons, the last time the Stars did not host was in 1996 when they didn’t play on that day. Thursday should be another special night and with how well the Stars have played this season, it should be quite a festive barn.