A Look At Your Dallas Stars’ Shortened 2019-2020 Campaign. Plus: A Q&A With Stars PA Announcer Jeff K About His Charity Efforts During These Wild Times.

It has been over a full calendar month since your Dallas Stars played their last game — a 4-2 loss at the hands of the New York Rangers to extend the Stars’ losing streak to six.

Granted, our concerns over the team’s slump seem like a lifetime ago at this point — and so minuscule, as the world has since been forced to collectively adjust to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, Your Dallas Stars would be wrapping up a first-round triumph over the Colorado Avalanche right now. Instead, like so many others, they’re anxiously waiting in a holding pattern for the foreseeable future.

Will the Stars lift Lord Stanley’s Cup this June, July or August? We doubt it, but not because of a lack of secondary goal-scoring. Like Los Angeles Kings captain Drew Doughty, we believe the 2019-2020 season is effectively over — and, boy, does that make us sports sad.

No more Ben Bishop 50-save heroics? No more Miro puck-hauls through a neutral zone trap? No more Denis Gurianov highlight reel breakaway goals? No, not this spring, anyway.

You know what also makes us not just sports sad, but real sad? Even if, by some miracle, the NHL sees the completion of its current campaign, this may be the end for lil ol’ Forechecking™.

Like so many other endeavors the world over, Central Track has been hit hard by the fallout of the coronavirus –and, without your help, we might have to call it a career very soon.

To be clear: We don’t want to hang em up yet. We’ve loved covering this team each year for CT since December 2015, and we hope you’ve smirked your way through our fantastical and slapstick coverage of the complicated saga that is Your Dallas Stars — especially before our big reveal.

You see, all those years ago, back when we first began Forechecking™, we buried a special Dallas Stars Superfan Treasure Chest® in a secret location, only to disclose the coordinates the minute when Jamie Benn and the bois achieved Ultimate Victory Green (patent pending) by winning the Stanley Cup. Sigh. All that work, all that digging, all those game-worn jerseys and bearer bonds — they’ll have to remain hidden eight-feet deep next to the softball fields of Cotton Wood Park in Grand Prairie forever, I guess.

What a drag, man.

Consequently, with the possible end in sight and all things considered, we feel a tad uncomfortable releasing our highly regarded player evaluations that we’ve painstakingly computed at the conclusion of every year. Frankly, we’ve forgotten many of the details of individual performances without checking our comprehensive and thorough notes, and we aren’t in the mood for being critical of anyone’s performance at this point.

However, we do want to highlight at least one player for their contributions this season, and celebrate their on-ice efforts. Listen, folks, no season is complete without celebrating and crowning your NHL Hitz Most Valuable Player of the Year!

NHL Hitz Most Valuable Player of the Year

Much like the season itself, we feel that it’s bittersweet, anticlimactic and strange that Anton Khudobin’s likely last start in a Victory Green™ sweater was way back on March 5, in a 2-0 shutout loss to the Nashville Predators. If you’ll recall, a devastating tornado ripped through the city just two days prior, spurring the underachieving Predators to a highly motivated performance in front of an emotional home crowd. It was a microcosm of Anton’s stint as a Star. Once again, he was phenomenal in a difficult road game against a hyped opponent with little offensive support from his teammates. On the year, the affable backup netminder posted a career high in save percentage with .930 (first in the NHL among goalies starting more than 20 games), a 2.22 goals against average (fourth in the NHL) and a quality start percentage of .731 (second in the NHL). A benefactor of the Stars’ defense-first mentality, the pending unrestricted free agent will certainly draw the attention from many GMs across the league who are looking to shore up their netminding, but we hope the 33-year-old sticks around Dallas to continue the vaunted Bish & Dobby Show into next year and beyond.

Exclusive Bonus End Times Content!

Over the weekend, the Forechecking™ crew was fortunate enough to catch up with Stars’ PA announcer Jeff K at an exclusive house party in Prosper, Texas. The celebration was lit — and a nice change of pace from all this “social distancing” that people are doing nowadays. We talked shop, threw the old pigskin around and even broke bread with a delicious spread catered by Nick and Sam’s Steakhouse ! The rotisserie chicken was especially amazing. Anyway, the whole thing was hella tight! And, since some of yall like hockey and stuff, we’ve decided to share some our convo here.

Do you miss your gig?
Jeff K:
Do you mean do I miss my job? Maybe I didn’t understand the question. Yes, of course! Like most Stars fans, NHL fans and fans of sports in general, I miss the communal nature of coming together and cheering for our team. As the in-arena voice of the Stars, I also miss relaying the on-ice excitement to our fans — the goals, the penalties, the “POWER PLAY!” call and especially “STARS WIN!” I also miss the game-day camaraderie with all of the Stars’ Game Presentation Crew. They’re the best in the business. There’s also the fun of the Official Watching Parties; I really miss those too, especially now that we’d be enjoying the ramped-up excitement of playoffs!

Do you see the NHL resuming the 2019-2020 season?
At first, I did. Now, with every passing week, I get more and more concerned. I believe no large gatherings — especially sports gatherings — will resume until we can provide a safe environment for players and fans. The only way to insure that is testing, and testing with rapid results. Even then, I’m afraid people will still be hesitant [to attend mass gatherings]. There needs to be a path to proven safety, and then consistency with that safety. I’m not sure how we get there in time [for the NHL season to continue], but I really hope those in charge figure it out.

I know you’re working now with the Dallas Stars Foundation through a project you’ve launched on Cameo. Can you elaborate some on that?
In the NHL, one day we were playing, and the next we were talking about playing without fans — and then we were put on pause. The immediacy of that decision led to real withdrawal for many fans, and I get that. I feel that way too. As you may know, the NHL #PAbrotherhood is a tight-knit group. We constantly share ideas and experiences, and one that seemed to catch on early was initiated by Vancouver Canucks PA announcer Al Murdoch. Stars fans know Al; he shared PA duties with me at the Winter Classic. Anyway, he began offering Canucks fans (through social media) the opportunity to have their names announced like he would at Rogers Arena. Shortly after that, other PA announcers around the league began similar efforts — Mike Ross in Toronto, Michel LaCroix in Montreal, Kevin Clark in New Jersey. Then I noticed Washington Capitals PA announcer Wes Johnson joined a city-wide initiative where DC’s local sports broadcasters offered personalized shout-outs through the Cameo app to assist area food banks. The response was tremendous — and for a good cause. That’s the model I felt was best: I could offer Stars-related Cameo bookings — and I could do it to benefit the Dallas Stars Foundation. So, I presented the plan to Dallas Stars’ Director of Game Presentation Kevin Harp, who in turn looped in Stars Foundation Director Chelsea Livingston, who wasted no time approving it. She let me know specifically that the foundation was working to assist Meals on Wheels Collin County to help food-insecure seniors during these difficult times. Since I began, the response has been great! In just three weeks, I’ve already made one payment to the foundation for $750.00, with another $500.00 ready to go. Sadly, it’s still not enough. Experts say we’re not out of the woods, and that the next few weeks could be the toughest, and the need for food will increase. As long as I have a voice, I’m willing to offer it for any personalized announcement fans can think of. For a $25 donation through the Cameo app, you can get your name (or that of a loved one) in a goal call, penalty call, birthday wish, anniversary shout-out — heck, I’ve even done a baby announcement! Since I started doing Cameo, PA announcer Greg Murray in Columbus and Andrew Imber in Florida have followed suit. We all have our unique way of doing it. If you’ve seen mine, you know I use the Stars goal song “Puck Off” by Pantera in the background to increase the authenticity of the arena experience. If you’re interested, book your Cameo now right here!

For non-Cameo-using Stars fans, how can they help with the Dallas Stars Foundation?
The Stars Foundation has been amazing. They recently raised money through the online auction of Stars St. Patrick’s Day-themed jerseys. They also held an online “Story Time Challenge” with players reading children’s books to encourage their Stick with Reading Program. Most recently, they’ve been offering “Quarantine In Victory Green” T-shirts with all proceeds benefiting the Foundation’s COVID-19 efforts.

Other than the Dallas Stars Foundation campaign and your duties as a DJ on Lonestar 92.5-FM, how have you been spending your time in self-quarantine?
I’ve been broadcasting my 3 to 7 p.m. show from home these past few weeks, which has been an adjustment. Bowie, my blue merle pomeranian, may be benefiting the most from the shelter-in-place orders. He’s never seen so much attention, and he’s even more spoiled now. I’ve also been organizing my vinyl collection, binge-ing on Netflix, enjoying all the online bedroom performances from musicians and catching up on some rock docs — including Coachella’s new 20 Years in The Desert film. Oh, and I’ve also been consuming plenty of new music too! I’ve been digging the new stuff from Tame Impala, The Lemon Twigs, Morrissey, Gorillaz, Pearl Jam, The Strokes, Chicano Batman, Thundercat, The Streets and, at the top of the list, the brand new Lehtmojoe joint. So good!

Hey, thanks! Let’s talk about this past season. What have been your favorite moments?
There were so many “moments” this season — starting with opening night when President Bush dropped the puck. But also Stephen Johns’ return, Jamie Benn’s hat trick and Tyler Seguin’s back-handed OT game-winner in Montreal. But, c’mon, nothing compared to the Stars’ come-from-behind win against the Nashville Predators on New Year’s Day at the Cotton Bowl during the 2020 Winter Classic. If there’s a Super Bowl for Stars fans, that was it. The entire day was special! From the moment I arrived at 6 a.m. for production meetings to hosting the Stars Stage from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to settling into the PA chair atop the press box at center ice to Corey Perry and Blake Comeau’s costly penalties to the amazing second and third period comeback. Many will point to Alexander Radulov’s goal as the “moment” — but, for me, it wasn’t until Andrej Sekera tipped the puck past Pekka Rinne, extending the Stars lead to two goals, when I really felt like we were going to win the game. The Winter Classic is not just my favorite moment of this season — but maybe in franchise history. It’s right up there with “Cinco De Morrow” in 2008 and winning the Cup in 1999.

If you had to shelter at home with one Stars player, who would you choose and why?
Easy. Give me Miro Heiskanen. He’s seems like a cool and humble dude. Plus, Bowie would get along great with Leo and Max. #GuysAndPoms

Did you think Carole Baskins killed her husband?
I may not be as confident as O.J. Simpson — but yeah, probably.

Anything else you’d like to share with the Victory Green™ faithful?
I’m hearing this season’s in-arena playoffs theme was going to be fantastic. Whether or not we ever get to see it remains uncertain, but one thing’s for sure: It’s top notch, just like the folks who created it. Also, another thanks for supporting the Stars Foundation and Meals on Wheel Collin County through my Cameo efforts. Please, book a cameo now. Oh, and one more thing: Go Stars!

* * * * *

Welp, folks. That’s it. For the time being, anyway, this is the end.

That in mind, I figure I might as well plug some personal projects before doing some doughnuts in the parking lot on my way out. It’s been trill.

Flip it. Stick it. See ya later, bye. — LehtMoJoe

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