Dallas Stars Tournament Series Director, Brad Buckland, is hoping the Top Shelf Hockey Challenge tournament will be — first and foremost — a great experience! This is what he and his staff are focused on when they organize each of their tournaments. The Top Shelf Hockey Challenge takes place this weekend – President’s Day – at the Dr. Pepper Star Centers in Dallas. It’s the largest tournament in their 7-Eleven Extreme Tournament Series, with 135 teams from across the nation and Canada set to participate.
“It’s all about the experience,” Buckland said. “We want every player, family and fan to have an NHL-level experience from not only the facilities, but also how the tournament is run. With our player giveaways, we like to think we give unmatched gifts. Everybody received a swag bag with both practical items and mementos from the the tournament. It really is about the all-around experience. We also ensure that we match teams up in a competitive bracket and give everybody a challenge. Whoever wins takes home our Boot Trophy!”
The Boot Trophy is a perfect example of that unique brand Buckland has strived to create since taking over his current role a year ago.
“Our championship trophies are actual boots. We give first and second place trophies – they are little boots with the tournament logo. New, this tournament, we’ll have award presenters wear cowboy hats. I came up with the idea during Nationals this past season. USA Hockey has presenters wear a blue blazer with the USA Hockey logo as they hand out the plates to the winning National teams.”
Uniqueness, as Buckland pointed out, goes hand in hand with hockey in Texas, so why not embrace that as part of the brand when it comes to the numerous tournaments they put on throughout the calendar year.
Dallas Stars Tournament Winning Boot Trophy!
“We’re in the South – people still don’t really associate hockey with Texas. They think football, baseball or even basketball, but hockey has grown tremendously. We’ve seen that growth within the Dr. Pepper Star Centers. We’re hosting events like the USA Five Nations Tournaments, National Championships and TAHA National Championships.”
Buckland explains, “I came in to this role mid-last year, not unfamiliar with hockey or the hockey community. Previously, I served on the board of the local travel association and have been embedded in the hockey community. I’ve always loved watching, but became more involved when my son started playing. If I was going to be at the rink, I may as well pitch in and do something. That led to my role with the Dallas Stars Tournaments. I’m very familiar with the lay of the land, the rinks and the processes. I’ve tried to establish us as brand.”
The Dallas Stars have done an amazing job integrating the game and their organization into the community since arriving prior to the 1993-94 NHL season. Whether it’s skating, hockey lessons or local leagues, hockey has had a presence. Tournaments take it to another level.
“In recent years, our youth tournaments fall under the “7 Eleven Extreme Tournament Series,” Buckland said. “We own the six Dr. Pepper Star Centers with a seventh coming soon in Mansfield. The Dr. Pepper Star Centers are focused on the program and building awareness of hockey. Obviously, having an NHL team here helps with that. We’ve always had a presence and role in the local community, but over the last 2-3 years, it’s grown into its own brand and we continue working on building that.”
All of that has helped to grow the game and more specifically the brand, but to Buckland and his staff, there can never be a bad idea or enough ideas and they continue to strive for the ones that will come to fruition and sustain.
“I was brought in to figure out the formula. Let’s see what works. Let’s produce more marketing and promote our tournaments. When I think of Texas, hockey would not be the first thing that comes to mind, but everybody that comes here to play hockey, wants to come back!”
Sometimes though, it’s the unplanned experiences that end up being exactly what defines their brand and makes it all worth it. The most recent Lone Star Tournament was a perfect example, as Buckland explained to LiveBarn.
“During the Lone Star Invitational, we had two teams from Canada – a Dauphin, Manitoba High School team (whose coach is a huge Stars fan) and the Okotoks Oilers, from Alberta. Both wanted to play 18U. With not much time, we reached out to other areas for teams, but landed Frisco High School and Denton High School – and that formed the division.”
Buckland describes the experience, “The Canadian teams rented buses and experienced everything Dallas had to offer. And the play was exceptional! At Plano, it was Canada vs. Canada on the World sheet and Texas vs. Texas on the US sheet.
Dauphin Clippers over Okotoks Oilers 18U – 4 – 3 – Sunday, January 14, 2018 – Dr. Pepper StarCenter Plano
Not only did that make for a great stage, but the two Canadian teams live 16 hours apart and had never played each other before. The first time they met up was in Texas! We pushed it all on LiveBarn via highlights shared on Social Media! It was great to get the word out. The Dauphin team won and they hand-carried The Boot Trophy back to Canada.”
Buckland and his crew will look to build off that momentum and create more organic experiences to help take the Dallas Stars Hockey Tournaments to an even higher level and experience.
“It’s great to have LiveBarn broadcasting the Top Shelf tournament,” Buckland said. “Having LiveBarn technology in the rink and pushing on Social Media helps spread the word. We’re ready to go for Top Shelf – and while we’ve doubled in size (135 teams, up from 61 the prior year), we will still always look to do more and learn what we need to do. I’m very excited! This is the largest one and hopefully we’ll make it even bigger next year!”