photo courtesy Tim Heitman/Dallas Stars

This statement made Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn smile: “I like it that Mr. Benn won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer in 2015 because I want to be an artist when I grow up.”

Such things are all in the delivery. If you or I said that to him, he might (justifiably) roll his eyes at us. But when Jaden Young, a sixth grader at St. Philip’s School spoke those words last week, it evoked a Benn grin.

Young delivered his line at the Dallas Stars Foundation Gala. They held it last Thursday at an American Airlines center transformed from basketball court to elegant ballroom and back again over the course of 24 hours. Near the event’s beginning, team broadcaster Daryl Reaugh introduced the roster. One at a time, each player walked onto the stage, accompanied by a student. The student then recited his or her own supplement to Reaugh’s introduction. Third grader Hunter Adams explained that Jason Dickinson was born in Georgetown, Ontario, which is approximately 1,500 miles from Georgetown, Texas. Fourth grader Jillian Evans informed the crowd that Jamie Oleksiak’s sister Penny won four Olympic swimming medals. Fourth grader Trinity Musco told us how Ben Bishop went to two Frozen Fours playing for the University of Maine and also how she wants to be a doctor who perhaps would want to study pre-med at Maine.

photo courtesy Tim Heitman/Dallas Stars
FWW BTH 300x250

Benn’s reaction wasn’t unusual. As the players realized the kids, who had clearly paid attention in reading class and rehearsed their lines, had something to say about them, they paid attention and enjoyed the experience.

The program’s theme was a classroom setting, with three players serving as a “guest instructor.” So Blake Comeau gave a short lecture on a fellow Saskatchewanian, former Stars captain Brenden Morrow (who happened to be in attendance that evening). The crowd then had to look at video Morrow alongside video of another player (we selected Brendan Morrison, just to add a layer of difficulty) and use their smartphones (using Kahoot!, a widely popular educational tool) to try to register a guess about which was which. Bishop then explained what a glove save was and Joe Pavelski demonstrated cross checking (not on an actual person, luckily). The crowd tried to decipher correct answers and the two audience members who responded most quickly and accurately to the three questions teamed up with a player onstage for the finals. There, they had to answer questions about the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (which will be played in the Cotton Bowl Stadium this season). How would you have done with these questions about former Winter Classic host cities, as delivered by the host, aka headmaster, Reaugh?

  1. Once upon a time, this hockey team was known as the Broad Street Bullies. This baseball team has an alliterative mascot that is one of the most famous in the sports world. What’s the town?
  2. Mike Modano and Brett Hull each played for the host hockey team, although not at the same time. The football team lays claim to the quarterback with more Super Bowl wins than any other. Which town am I describing?
photo courtesy Tim Heitman/Dallas Stars

The answers were Philadelphia and Ann Arbor, respectively. Both sets of contestants got those right, so we headed into overtime. Taylor Fedun’s pair was finally stumped by this one: On what date were the 2012 and 2017 Winter Classics held?

Jamie Benn’s team correctly identified January 2 and were declared the winners. Yes, they got prizes.

photo courtesy Tim Heitman/Dallas Stars

Of course, the goal of any such event is for the cause to be the ultimate winner, and you also design a lot of your program with that in mind. The nonprofit ideally benefits in a couple of ways. One is financial – the Dallas Stars Foundation sold several high-dollar live and silent auction packages along with multiple guest tables. The other way the charity wins comes in an embrace of its mission.

In this case, the funds raised will go to the foundation’s pledge to support St. Philip’s School, a project designed to be a lasting legacy for that hockey game they’ll play in Fair Park. St. Philip’s shares a zip code with the Cotton Bowl Stadium. In addition to educating neighborhood children, they look to make a broader impact on the community there, through programs like a food pantry and legal clinic.

photo courtesy Tim Heitman/Dallas Stars

I didn’t know about the school before I started working on the event, but I, too, couldn’t help but smile watching their composed students rehearse their creed before the show and acquit themselves marvelously on stage during the program. We also learned a lot about St. Philip’s through the course of the evening, hearing from the likes of Headmaster Dr. Terry Flowers and Stars Foundation President Marty Turco.

The players heard all of that, too. Forward Tyler Seguin had played ball hockey with some kids at the school the previous week, and I would speculate Turco and his staff won’t have a ton of problems getting other players to do the same in the future. They now know they can expect to enjoy themselves.

photo courtesy Tim Heitman/Dallas Stars