"You can feel hockey here.''
That's how Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk describes what it is about Charlottetown that stands out for him and the organization.
That is certainly high praise coming from a man who has won an Olympic gold medal, three Stanley Cups with three different teams and was elected this year to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Nieuwendyk and the Stars will return to Charlottetown for a portion of the team's training camp, Sept. 15-20. The team will practice at MacLauchlan Arena (free to the public) and play an intra-squad game at the Civic Centre on Sunday, Sept. 19.
The Stars surged in the first half of last season and Nieuwendyk attributes that to the effect being in Charlottetown had the team.
"I attribute a lot of our success last year, especially with the start that we had, to the team getting here and coming together as a team right off the get-go here in Charlottetown. The community embraced us. We had a great time. It was all positive and I anticipate this (next camp) will be as well.''
Nieuwendyk spoke to the media Friday after participating in the 50th annual Gold Cup Parade in Charlottetown.
Mayor Clifford Lee said when the city found out parade organizers were going with the ‘Parade of Stars' theme this year they decided to fire off an email to the Dallas organization to see if anyone wanted to participate. Dallas replied to the city the very next day.
"We never expected the next day to get a response that the general manager, Joe Nieuwendyk, would be pleased to come up and take part in the parade,'' Lee said. "That's just the type of organization these guys are.''
It's going to cost the city roughly $30,000 to host the Stars' camp but the spinoffs far outweigh the costs.
According to numbers from the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance - using something they call the Sport Tourism Economic Assessment Model - the economic impact of the Stars visit last year was $500,000. That includes factors such as players who frequent restaurants in the city and tickets sold for the intra-squad game.
And, this year's camp is a day longer that last year.
Nieuwendyk said it's good to get away from the familiar confines of home for a few days.
"No. 1, it's important to get out of Texas and the heat that we're experiencing there now,'' the general manager said. "You come to a little community like this where it's . . . you can feel hockey. It's good for our guys. Everything is so close. Nothing is spread out and the facilities are terrific.
"It's a good community feel and I think we feel that with all of you guys and the way people go about their business here in town. I think our guys really appreciate that.''
The agreement between the Stars and the city is a year-by-year thing meaning there is no deal in place for next year.
Lee said the city will consider all options once the Stars leave town next month.
Word is the city is getting a lot of calls from people suggesting the city pursue a camp with Cornwall native Adam McQuaid and the Boston Bruins.
And, the city will also likely see whether Murray Harbour native Brad Richards and his new team, the New York Rangers, might be interested in coming up.
"What happens next is tough to say right now,'' Lee said. "After this training camp, we need to sit back and see how this event came off and see what, if any, interest might be out there with other clubs.''