|Then Texas Head Coach Derek Laxdal coaches up F Denis Gurianov in Cedar Park
(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars were out in full force at the Winter Classic this week in the Cotton Bowl.
Well, maybe they weren't wearing Texas uniforms this week, but the legacy of the Cedar Park club was all over the lineup. From Jason Dickinson and Esa Lindell assisting on the opening goal to Klingberg's pair of helpers on the tying and go-ahead markers. The connection was clear on the ice and behind the benches as well. For the first time since 2013, when Glen Gulutzan led the club, a Texas Stars graduate was behind the bench in some capacity for Dallas with Derek Laxdal's presence.
Laxdal told 100 Degree Hockey after the Classic that his experience in the outdoor game was only rivaled by the final game of the Memorial Cup in terms of atmosphere and excitement. The whole coaching staff leaned into the Winter Classic's western theme with cowboy hats on the bench.
"I was waving it at the end of the game!" said Laxdal. "I wanted to make sure I enjoyed it. We talked about wearing them the whole game, and we wanted to win with them."
It wasn't a spot that Laxdal expected to be in when the month of December started, but the circumstances put him in that spot and he was happy to see his power play unit deliver in the clutch. Down by one, Dallas scored back-to-back power play goals to open the third period and set the Cotton Bowl on fire with fan excitement.
Laxdal has begun to form good relationships with the players on his roster that he hasn't seen in Texas, many of whom are on the power play units. The entire last month has felt like training camp for Laxdal, who has had to rapidly learn the ebb and flow of the NHL schedule all while preparing for the biggest game of the regular season for the entire league. Until this weekend, he was still living out of a hotel but was looking forward to moving into an apartment in the Dallas area and getting a bit more settled.
The players are certainly feeling more settled with Laxdal. He added he's picked up a nickname in the locker room, which is a proven sign of hockey admiration. Of course, many of these players had him as a mentor and coach coming up through the system.
"Laxy's got a great attitude and we got along really well in Cedar Park," said Jason Dickinson. "He brings a lot of positivity and reassurance on the bench making sure everyone's going.
"He's got a good mind for the game so you have to respect what he says. You know sometimes he's going to get into you a little bit, but you know it's [to make you] better."
Just like so many of the players, the coach had family in town and was looking forward to reading through the fifty congratulatory text messages that he had waiting for him at the end of the game. Regardless of the way the rest of the season plays out, the Dallas Stars and their newest assistant coach have a hockey memory that will last a lifetime.