(Editors note: This is the first installment of what’s going to be a regular series here at SCH where we’ll reach out to other writers from around the SB Nation family to learn more about other writers’ history with the sport, how the Blackhawks line up with other teams, and some general hockey talk.)
Taylor Baird, has been the managing editor of Defending Big D since 2016 and an avid hockey writer for 10 years. This is her fifth year as a credentialed writer covering the Stars and was asked to join the Professional Hockey Writers Association in 2019. After just a few minutes of speaking with Baird, her dedication to the sport was palpable, but it was also clear that it is of the utmost importance to her to promote and model professionalism in sports writing.
It seemed a certainty that Baird had grown up with hockey, with her breadth of knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport.
“My dad insists that he took me to my first hockey game (Houston Aeros) when I was little,” she said. “But I don’t have any memory of that at all.”
In fact, it wouldn’t be until Baird moved to Dallas after college that her true dedication to the sport began.
“It was on a blind date!”
Having just moved to Dallas, Baird didn’t know many people, so a friend of a friend knew a friend that set her up. This guy had tickets to a game and, as Baird put it, “it took about 30 seconds into warmups and I knew hockey was meant to be my favorite sport, not football.” “I like to say that I fell in love that day. Just not with a guy, but with hockey.”
Her first game saw the Stars take on the Sharks, and she remembers this clearly because later that year, the same two teams met in the playoffs and with Game 6 of that series going into a fourth round of overtime. It was the eighth longest game in NHL history.
“The game went on so long I remember falling asleep and waking up around 2 a.m., thinking I would check the score of the game. When I got to the TV, I was surprised to see they were still playing, and I ended up seeing Brenden Morrow score, sending the Stars to the conference finals!”
Energized by her budding romance, Baird began doing more research into the sport and the culture surrounding it. At this point, she didn’t know a single person that was into hockey in Dallas and had no one to discuss the games with, which is how she found Defending Big D. Her long career with the site began one year after it was created through her contribution to the site’s Fan Shots and highlighting the team’s overall marketing strategies. With Baird’s academic and professional background in marketing, she gravitated towards writing about hockey from this perspective. So, Baird beamed, she’s very proud to have been part of the site since almost it’s inception.
Baird is certain she’s written about almost every angle there is to hockey, but focuses on more of game-driven content. The pandemic has limited her access to the locker room and she doesn’t attend practices like she usually would on days off/holidays from her real-world job, with all media availability sessions now hosted online. Although Baird said she misses the press box, she contends there’s a positive side: the chance to multi-task with getting things done around the house while putting in work for her articles — not to mention more time with the pets.
An inspirational aspect of Baird’s approach to hockey is her dedication to ensuring that hockey culture — especially its teams — commit to and hold themselves accountable to ensuring that hockey really is “for all.” For example, Baird was critical of the Stars organization with the way they were celebrating the ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ campaign which she wrote about in an article from 2020, especially in terms of the LGBTQ+ community. However, Baird says that she’s seen real change in the Stars’ approach to this, from the smallest level up.
“They learned, and they reacted, and they made real change to their employment policies, including the language they use to ensure more inclusivity by including gender expression and identity will not be discriminated against in the hiring process.”
In addition to game analysis, Baird tries to highlight what the organization is now doing from a social or community perspective, such as celebrating Black History Month or the LGBTQ+ community. She stresses that this doesn’t get as much as attention as the game, but for her, “it’s just as important what’s happening on the ice, to what’s happening off of it.”
“I think what I bring to the coverage is that we’re not going to shy away from discussing serious issues or the toxic parts of hockey culture.” There’s room for multiple types of stories, and talking about hockey culture is at a pivotal moment. Although the NHL as a whole likes to avoid controversy, people are now holding them accountable as there are now avenues for fans to express their feelings. If you say hockey is for everyone, make it for everyone.
She hopes that by talking about these issues, “we can make a difference, and really enact change.”
In the end, Baird stresses that the Stars really are a “classy organization” not only in terms of the work they are doing to really live the “hockey is for everyone” approach, but also in regards to the culture of the team. “Coach Rick Bowness says ‘we’re a family here’” and from what she’s seen and heard, this is really a foundational aspect to the team.
She laughed when asked her about her prediction for the first two games between the Blackhawks and the Stars this season.
“I think there is a low-key brooding rivalry between the Blackhawks and the Stars,” she said, referencing the personal vendetta from 2013-2014 between Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw and former Stars winger Antoine Roussel that was ignited in a 2013 game at the United Center. After Roussel scored on a penalty shot, Roussel ‘encouraged’ the crowd to hurl insults at him, further deepening the bad blood between the two teams.
“It’s not going to be an easy out against Chicago. The team still has a lot of weapons up front, young guys on the back end.” But her (chirpy) prediction of Dallas winning Sunday’s game 6-1 was clearly not met.
Baird’s prediction for Tuesday’s game? She sees a potential for the Stars to respond the way they did after a flat game against the Hurricanes. The team played pissed off the next outing, shellacking the Blue Jackets 6-3. While she doesn’t foresee it being such a huge margin, a 4-2 style win is well within the realm of possibility. Considering Rick Bowness said Monday that he doesn’t like waking up not in a playoff position, anticipate the Stars giving the Blackhawks all they can handle on Tuesday.
Thanks Taylor, now let’s go Hawks!