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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Sports World’s Ground Zero: Dallas to Host NBA and NHL Conference Finals

  • American Airlines Center is the first arena to host NHL, NBA conference finals games in the same season since 2003.
  • Venue officials are stressing normalcy in what remains an abnormal situation.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The center of the sports world, at least for the next week or so, will largely be the American Airlines Center in Dallas, highlighting a unique confluence among two of the city’s major pro teams. 

The NHL’s Stars and NBA’s Mavericks, who share the 23-year-old arena, have each reached the conference finals in their respective leagues. That’s the first time that’s happened in the same year with NHL and NBA teams that share a building since 2003, when the Devils and Nets each advanced to the league finals, and New Jersey winning the Stanley Cup, while playing at the now closed Meadowlands Arena (then known as Continental Airlines Arena). 

A somewhat similar situation happened just a year ago when the NHL’s Panthers and NBA’s Heat in South Florida also made joint finals appearances. But those teams play in separate arenas more than 30 miles apart. 

The situation in Dallas, conversely, has been a jam-packed one in which three concerts there have already been rescheduled due to the ongoing playoff runs, with more shifts likely to come. Such movement on the venue calendar is typical at this time of year as concerts booked for May and June frequently contain additional contingencies to account for newly scheduled playoff games in basketball and hockey. 

Boom Times in Big D

Upcoming games at American Airlines Center will be held May 23, 25, 26, and 28, with more possible depending on the outcome of the two series. But arena leaders are attempting to normalize the situation, and highlighted the frequent operational turnovers all year long between the two sports and other events. 

“This is really about the teams and the fans,” Dave Brown, American Airlines Center general manager, tells Front Office Sports. “This is what we do and what we prepare for. It’s very exciting, obviously, but we are ready for this.”

A similar shared-arena situation for the conference finals was one game away from also happening at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and it would have extended what’s been a historically resonant spring for the NBA’s Knicks and NHL’s Rangers. But the Knicks fell to the Pacers on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Both the Stars and Mavericks have previously won league championships, but never at the same time. But the latest success extends a local run that has included MLB’s Rangers winning last year’s World Series and that team’s Globe Life Field hosting the league All-Star Game in July. The NFL’s Cowboys, by far the most popular team locally, have been left out of this and haven’t reached the NFC championship game since 1995.

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