In 2011, Arlington’s Christian Frey was wearing a Dallas Stars uniform while playing at one of the many StarsCenters around the Metroplex.
He was a goaltender for the Junior Stars organization, playing for an under 18 team.
Little did he know that one day he’d live his dream of skating in a Stars jersey for the club itself — in this case as a developmental prospect.
Frey is one of five local hockey players invited to participate in the Stars’ development camp this week, aimed at schooling the organization’s recent draft picks in the coaching staff’s system.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Frey, an Arlington Martin graduate. “Growing up, watching the Stars, that’s what originally got me into playing hockey. Being at their rookie camp, it’s an incredible feeling.”
For Frey, who now plays for Ohio State, it’s the first step in reaching the same heights his childhood friend Seth Jones, a Dallas-raised player, obtained when he was selected fourth overall in last year’s draft.
“He wasn’t on everybody’s radar and then all of the sudden this kid out of Texas was playing well in the NCAA — so exciting for him,” Stars goaltending coach Mike Valley said.
For another Arlington native, Cole Martin, it’s the continuation of a dream that was reached several years prior.
Martin, who just finished a Western Hockey League season with Kelowna, returned to development camp this season after participating when he was 17.
He said this second go-around is even more productive, as he is a little less star-struck.
“You feel a little bit more comfortable,” Martin said. “You’re not shy, walking around with your head down. You can actually go up and say hi to guys, especially guys you’ve played against for years.”
One of those conversations included a 20-minute sit-down with Stars assistant general manager Les Jackson about life in general and improving specific skills.
For Martin, there are no better teachers than the organization that gave him his first love of hockey and biggest motivation.
“My parents have season tickets, so as a little kid I was star-struck,” Martin said. “Just always wanting to play for them and see if I could ever make it and challenge it every day to try and make it whether it was here or anywhere else, but it’s even more special here.”
For Colleyville native John Searfoss, the experience of seeing the inner workings of the organization he grew up following was a thrill, he said.
They matched up with Coppell native Matt Staples, who played last season for Medicine Hat of the WHL and Southlake resident Jake Fallon to round out the Texas five.
The larger number of local invitees to this year’s camp is another sign to general manager Jim Nill that youth hockey is continuing to grow in Texas.
“They’re all big players on their teams,” Nill said. “It shows that the hockey has grown here and it’s getting stronger.”