Last year around this time I wrote a piece about soccer and as I am want to do about now, the third year since my hospitalization, I am reflective and my thoughts took me to hockey.
I’ve been a Dallas Stars fan since 1997, the years in which they surged toward the Stanley Cup (1999). I have my sister to thank for introducing me. I was graduating and would end up moving for college shortly after, living those years in Arkansas until just 4 months ago. So while I followed the Stars, it was more difficult back then to watch consistently. Once out of school I’d catch occasional games but being the only person I knew who was a fan, it just wasn’t the same.
I don’t recall how exactly I found the subreddit for the Dallas Stars, but I do remember how quickly I really enjoyed interacting with fans on the posts made for every game. It was towards the end of the season in 2015. I remember being really sad when the season was over and baseball was ramping up because I’d miss the people. I hopped over to the Texas Rangers sub to participate in the same way, but just knew it wasn’t going to be the same. (And it wasn’t but I really enjoyed this group too, but for different reasons.)
I remember writing up what I was going through in a game thread (which I found on Dec. 3, 2016) and receiving very warm support. It was more than I had felt from “in real life” friends at the time (and that’s where my attitude really started to shift). Every game thread someone would ask how much better I was doing as I continued to recover. And those simple comments really made a world of difference to my mental health. It was around this time one of these redditor’s, a guy who goes by Chiapanacas, reached out to me directly. We started chatting regularly and it wasn’t long before I made the trek to my first game to see the Stars, meeting him and a few other friends from the sub. Stars lost but it was a fun, new experience! Nothing quite like attending a hockey game in person! The atmosphere of an arena is absolutely bonkers!
2017 was a very rough year filled with depression and loneliness yet there was the constant connection with the friends I’d made through the sub. I started taking more trips to Dallas than I’d ever had since college. My connection to Chia and a few other friends grew. I’d started a live chat using Slack and my “online” friends were my source of connection to people. People I knew who cared about me. Coupled with the desire to get away from everything that had caused so much pain, I was filled with the desire to move back to Texas. These friends were there, my teams were there, and my problems were not.
I believe it was playoff time in 2016 when I became a moderator for the Texas Rangers subreddit, and that was the first step in my journey to making moderating my favorite teams’ subs as a major hobby. (They’d put out the call for some help and I answered.) I can’t remember at what point this happened in 2017 but it had to have been in the latter part of that hockey season, one of the mods for the Stars reached out to me saying he wanted to step down and I was recommended as a replacement. Well of course I accepted!
From that point, it was me and one other mod, who did all the amazing coding and design. When the 2017 season was nearing, she reached out to me and said she was stepping down. (It’s a lot of work to maintain the level of code she built so I didn’t really blame her.) For much of the 2017 season, I was left to my own devices. Despite reaching out to the others on the mod list, I was the only one actively doing anything. It wasn’t easy, particularly trying to work with the code because I’d have to spend hours learning and trialing things. But it was fun! We held a couple meetups that I came to, one of the best being when we all splurged for seats in the lower level. Now THAT was a whole new experience, despite the Stars losing!
In 2018, I knew I couldn’t keep going like I was modding by myself, but fortunately one of the mods returned from studying abroad and I also recruited a friend. That season saw our sub explode with followers. In 2016, our game threads would barely reach 200, maybe 300, comments. In 2018, we were commonly reaching 1000 comments. The sub went from around 8,000 to over 15,000 followers! I started arranging AMAs with key Stars production staff and organizing meetups that continued to grow in attendance. It was my pride to be part of enhancing this community of fans; an absolute bright spot in a rather dark time.
Having this group of people to share game experiences with reinvigorated my love for hockey and the Stars more than it ever had been. There is something very valuable in having the commonality and belonging in being a fanatic of a team. Following the Stars for so long, albeit loosely for a while, I’d been through the full gamut of emotions. When we made our playoff run in 2019, I was thrilled to attend my first playoff game. (Unfortunately, we lost that one.)
And here’s where I need to stop and point something out. Up to this day, I had attended, oh, somewhere around 8-12 games, I don’t even remember. But… I had not seen my beloved team win in person. Not once. I seemed to have a curse of coming to Dallas and my team lose. I thought by moving here that would end. Nope! Even the 3-4 I’ve been to since moving here, they’d lose. It became somewhat of a meme amongst my friends, who were damn near set on me never attending a game again, particularly when we were starting the season 1-7-1.
November 23, 2019. The Stars are on an incredible point streak tear completely turning around their dismal start, seemingly invincible against any opponent. I had tickets to the game and met up with a fellow redditor. I was legitimately nervous. I’m not REALLY superstitious–it’s fun to act like it though–but this was a seriously uncanny streak of bad fortunate. Could the Stars’ success overcome my curse? It took every ounce that game–a complete overtime and a shootout–but I finally saw them win. All the emotions tied to this team and my circumstances poured out, and I absolutely (and embarrassingly) cried in relief. Understand the monumental nature of this. Fan since 1997. Attended first home game in 2017. Saw my first win in person in 2019.
So I write this in reflective gratitude on the occasion of their win and the holiday. The friends I’ve forged, the contributions I’ve been entrusted to make, the pride of fandom… like with soccer, this sport and this team have been no small contribution to the positive direction my life has taken. They’ve always been there in the background, but they’ve never been more important.