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Dallas Stars to Play at Houston’s Reliant Stadium in 2011-2012 NHL Preseason Game

2011 NHL Winter Classic (Jamie Squire, Getty Images)

Houston’s Reliant Stadium is the home to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, the NFL’s Houston Texans, various soccer matches and hosted this year’s Final Four, but this fall it will host something completely different- a National Hockey League game.

Robert Snyder, 1340TheFan.com

DFW SportsDay reported yesterday that the Dallas Stars will play a preseason game Friday, September 23 against the Phoenix Coyotes at Reliant Stadium.  The game will be the first hockey game ever played at Reliant Stadium and the first NHL preseason game played in a modern large stadium/Winter Classic setting.

The Stars and the Texans must have been working on this project for awhile because the Texans conveniently have two weeks of road games leading up to the hockey game on the 23rd.

It will be interesting to see what the Stars, Texans and NHL’s expectations are concerning attendance for the game.  The major stumbling block I see is that it will take place on a Friday night in the fall, up against high school football. Sure, it will be a unique event, but high school football is tough to compete against in Texas.  Secondly, the game is a preseason game.  Nothing will be on the line for the Stars and Coyotes.  Part of the allure of the NHL Winter Classic is the fact it is in the middle of the regular season, usually with two teams in the same division battling each other for playoff position.  The final stumbling block I see is ticket price.  I think this is an event that can be easily overpriced.  I could see tickets ranging in price between $10-$30, but anything over $40 would be pushing it.

On a side note, I wonder if the Stars called up Jerry Jones and asked if they could use Cowboys Stadium?  How would Jerry respond to such a request?  Is he hacked the Stars are doing this in Houston, rather than Arlington?

Houston Aeros Hockey at the Toyota Center (Robert Snyder, 1340TheFan.com)

On the outside looking in, it looks like this exhibition is another attempt by the NHL to see if Houston would be a viable location for major league hockey.  The American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros (AAA Minor League) have had a nice following (4,000-5,000 average attendance per game) since coming back into existence in the late 1990s, but I don’t think the fan and sponsorship dollars are there to support a NHL team.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has ownership and fan support problems with Phoenix, Columbus and the New York Islanders.  I don’t think moving a team to Houston would help the league in a long-term scenario.  Plus, if Quebec City can get their act together, I think they would be more deserving to get a team back into their city.

Finally, if the attendance for this special Dallas Stars game in Houston only reaches 10,000-15,000, I think the NHL will have egg on their face.  Remember, Reliant Stadium can seat over 70,000 people.  While expectations for a sell-out would be unrealistic, I’d think you would have to get at least 25,000 people there to make this event worthwhile.

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