Just a few years ago, the Dallas Stars Elite Hockey Club had one team.
Eric Silverman envisioned something bigger, and three years later, the Stars have one of the top youth programs in the country.
At the Rocky Mountain district Tier I tournament earlier this month, the Stars won three of the four titles and lost in triple overtime in the other championship game.
“We’ve only been around as a full program for three years and we’ve got a lot of good people who have put a lot of time in,” said Silverman, who is the director of hockey and the coach of the Under-16 team. “It’s very rewarding to see our teams have this much success.”
For years, the program had a U-18 team. Now, it has a full nine-team program. The U-12, U-14 and U-16 teams all won district titles.
“I’m not surprised because I think this was the plan from Day 1, to put everything in place to create this type of program,” Silverman said. “But, it’s not like we came in with new coaches. Our coaches had been coaching Tier I hockey in the city for a while. We just got them together to do things the right way.”
Silverman, who is from New York, played college hockey at Alaska-Anchorage. He also played in the United States Hockey League, has coached college hockey and has worked with the U.S. national team. He is one of several top-notch coaches in the program, including Stu Barnes, a former NHL standout and current assistant with the NHL's Dallas Stars.
Silverman said the level of coaching has played a big role in the program's quick vault to the top. He also added that, “Our facilities and training is as good as anywhere you’ll find in the country.” Silverman was also quick to credit volunteers, administrators and community support.
“The thing that Dallas has going for it, it has a lot of good athletes, it has a lot of experienced coaches down here now and the facility the kids have down here is incredible,” he said. “There’s a lot of resources for the kids to be on the ice a lot.”
Because of that, the kids have become quite good. The Dallas Stars Elite have an informal relationship with the NHL club and several current and former players for the NHL team have kids in the program.
As for the teams going to nationals, all of them are filled with great players.
The U-12 team features Max Gildon, who had three goals and five assists during the districts. “He’s probably one of the best players in his age group in the whole country,” Silverman said. “He’s clearly the guy on that team.” Beyond Gildon, players such as Ryan O'Reilly and Marek Wazny also shine.
At U-14, the Stars won despite missing Hank Crone, who Silverman said is “one of the best 98s in the country.” Crone tore his groin and missed the districts. It's unclear if he'll be ready for nationals. Without him, the Stars got great contributions from Patric Fun, Addison Runey and Caleb Jones, among others.
Matt Staples had five goals to lead the U-16 team to the championship, while Blake Gober (four goals, two assists) and Elliot Pickles (three assists) also had great tournaments and goalie Alex Gross went 4-0 in net. “I don’t think there’s any superstars, but there’s no low-end kids,” Silverman said. “We’re very, very deep.”
That's true of the whole program these days. Two years ago, their first as a program, the Stars sent no teams to nationals. Last year, they sent two. Now, three are headed and it very well could have been four.
The natural next step? A national title.
“With three teams going, that’s for sure the next step, to go up and try to compete for a national championship,” Silverman said.
Regardless of how the teams fare at nationals, those involved with the program are pleased with the direction it is headed.
“It’s been a nice ascent,” Silverman said. “This is something, we feel like there’s still a lot of room to continue to grow and improve.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge every year to try to send our teams to nationals, but our plan is to be as competitive as we can and continue to be a program that’s consistently a force on a national level for years to come.”
Silverman said there are also plans to add a girls’ side of the program, as well.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.