I was ten years old in the summer of 1993 when my family moved from Fort Worth, Texas, to Nashville, Tennessee. That same summer a hockey team from the state of hockey was also relocating as the Minnesota North Stars moved south becoming the Dallas Stars Hockey Club. I was a huge Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys fan but knew very little about hockey at that point.
The Stars changed that for me.
Though I could rarely watch hockey games in Tennessee at the time, I was hooked on hockey immediately. I began playing street hockey out in the parking lot of our old townhome community. I would obsessively check box scores each morning in the sports section of the newspaper. And I would always choose the Stars in the classic NHL 94 video game. Hockey quickly became part of my identity.
A few years into my hockey fandom something completely unexpected happened: the city of Nashville was awarded an NHL expansion team. The Stars were my team but I was excited that the NHL was coming to town and I wanted to participate in the expansion process. I dove right in. My dad and I even voted on the team nickname in 1997 (we voted for the eventual nickname, the Predators, over some terrible choices like the Ice Tigers and the Fury). I loved the entire process of a community getting its own team.
Much like when the Stars arrived in Dallas, my family moved again the summer before the Predators would play their inaugural game in 1998. This time we left Nashville and headed back to Texas.
The late 90s were a great time for a high school kid who now followed two hockey teams. The Predators began their journey as an NHL hockey club and the Stars became one of the best teams in the league winning the Stanley Cup in 1999. It was easy to root for both teams because they were in different divisions and rarely played each other.
Fast-forward 20 years later and the Stars and Predators now sit in the same division, are months away from playing an outdoor Winter Classic game against one another, and are hours away from meeting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time.
What’s a hockey fan who cheers for both the Stars and Predators to do? Can you really root for two teams in the same sport?
For me, the answer is yes. I grew up with both of these clubs and saw each of them from inception. I have celebrated with both teams, felt the sting of losses with both teams, attended playoff games in both cities, bought NHL TV packages to both teams, and even worked for the Stars right out of college. My fandom for each team is genuine and real. I equate it to a parent watching a game that features one of their children on each of the teams. Who does the parent root for?
I look forward to Game 1 tonight and to seeing two great franchises compete for the Stanley Cup. I am going to enjoy the game tonight and enjoy this series because I am a Stars fan and I am a Predators fan.
And I don’t expect a playoff series to change that.
Brian Roe is the founder and head writer of The Roe Report. He spent five years working for the Dallas Stars and has been a contributor at Hockey’s Future, The Hockey Writers, NHL Intel, and more. Follow Brian on Twitter @brianproe.