An interesting article appeared in the Asbury Park Press today courtesy of Andrew Gross, the Devils’ beat writer for The Record. It profiled Vernon Fiddler and his connection to the city of Dallas and its people. What you see in Gross’ piece is a guy who is tough on the ice, a great teammate and a family man who is trying to help people in his adopted home town as best he can.
Fiddler played five years for the Stars before signing a one-year, $1.25 million contract with the Devils this past summer. Prior to that, he spent time with the Nashville Predators (where he played more seasons, but fewer games than in Dallas) and the Arizona Coyotes.
But it is Dallas that the Edmonton native calls home now. His family still lives in a Dallas suburb and he has said that when he finally hangs the skates up for good, he will continue to call Texas home. As Fiddler told Gross “(T)his is going to be our home, we got our Green Cards last year. This is where my kids have been raised. My daughter even has a little Texas twang to her.”
Fiddler had about 60-70 friends and family at the American Airlines Center for last night’s game. Among those were his 9 year old son’s squirt hockey team (a team that Gross notes Fiddler has coached in the past) and another special fan: 9 year old Chloe Brown. Chloe is a two time cancer survivor (beating cancer first when she was 15 months old and again at 3 years old). She sat rinkside for the morning skate and Fiddler gave her a Devils jersey.
Chloe is one of “Fidd’s Kids” which is a charitable organization put together by Vernon and his wife, Chrissy. Gross mentions that it is in conjunction with the Dallas Stars foundation and brings “families and children served by non-profit organizations to the arena.”
Fiddler told Gross that “(S)he’s a special fan of mine. She has a special spot in my heart.” He added “(S)he’s a girl that’s inspired a lot of people in Dallas. It’s great to have her around today.”
Fiddler is also a hit in the Devils locker room with his new teammates. Taylor Hall, in an appearance on the NHL Network recently, mentioned Fiddler as the funniest member of the Devils, noting that he has a very dry sense of humor. Kyle Palmieri told Gross that “(H)e’s been awesome since he got here. I hated everything about him, playing against him so it’s good to have him on our side. We knew how he plays and what he’s all about and he brings a veteran presence and leadership.”
For his part, Fiddler said he was less nervous about his return to Dallas than he was when he returned to Nashville after leaving that city. “When you’re a little bit older, you’ve gone through it a few times. I don’t think I was as nervous today as when I went back to Nashville. There’s mixed emotions. There’s always good memories.”
Fiddler, 36, was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Ray Shero in Nashville and is reunited with him here in New Jersey. He spent eight seasons with the Predators.
Last night in Dallas, though, the chirpy center got the silent treatment from his former Stars teammates during warmups “Actually, I’d rather do that than have guys chit-chatting with me. It’s definitely going to be weird playing against these guys” he told Gross.
But the emotions could not be contained when the Stars ran a video tribute to him on the big screen at the American Airlines Center last night. The MSG cameras caught the gritty fourth liner getting a little bit emotional on the Devils’ bench while coach John Hynes applauded behind him along with the thousands of fans in attendance.
Vern Fiddler is one of the good guys in hockey: a good teammate and hockey player but, more importantly, a good member of his adopted community in Dallas.