Doug Armstrong, Thursday, July 4, 2002 in Irving, Texas. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Donna McWilliam
For years, Doug Armstrong and his family had a tradition on Christmas Day.
His wife and kids would head to the Dallas Stars' practice rink and have it to themselves while they took a whirl on the ice.
"When I told my daughter I no longer worked for the Stars, and I was wondering what her reaction would be, she said, 'Does that mean we can't go skating on Christmas?"' Armstrong said Friday from Dallas.
Armstrong, 43, is picking up the pieces after being fired as Stars GM on Tuesday. That means re-assuring his kids, aged 14 and 11, that everything will be fine.
"They understand now," Armstrong told The Canadian Press. "It's just part of the business. I'm viewing this as a great time to teach them how to respond to adversity. I have to be strong at home and go out and get another job and let them know that when you have a setback and you have to stand up and get back on your feet.
"That's what society demands and that's what we demand of ourselves."
Armstrong's deal with the Stars pays him through the 2010-11 season but he doesn't plan on sitting on the couch. He wants to work.
He's already been contacted from numerous friends around the league and given his excellent reputation he needn't worry.
"Someone said when you get let go, because it's never if but when, just make a list of names of people that called you and that'll give you a pretty good feeling of what you've done," said Armstrong. "So I've got that list and I'm on the third or fourth page now.
"It means a lot when people around the league reach out to you and show their support."
Armstrong met the media Friday in Dallas for the first time since his firing. He needed time to reflect before answering tough questions.
He understands why Stars owner Tom Hicks did what he did.
"The biggest failure was not delivering not only a Stanley Cup to the fans but not even delivering a long, sustained playoff run," said Armstrong, who took over as GM in January 2002.
His teams had more than 100 points in three of the last four seasons but managed only one playoff series victory.
"But I don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater," said Armstrong. "There was a lot of good things done here, too."
Armstrong went back to the team's headquarters Friday and cleaned out his office. It wasn't an easy day.
"I remember joining this organization in 1990-91, working for Bob Gainey and Bob Clarke," recalled Armstrong. "It's been a great ride ever since. Lots of stories, right from that first year in Minnesota when the team sneaks in at 16 in a 21-team league and makes the Cup final.
"Then the move to Dallas ... the personal triumphs and tragedies with Bob (Gainey) that we shared, it's just been a great 17 years."
He was bumped from assistant GM to the GM job almost six years ago after Gainey was fired. Now his assistant GM, Les Jackson, got promoted to interim co-GM with Brett Hull.
"If anyone deserves this opportunity it's Les Jackson," said Armstrong. "I'm so happy for him that he'll get a chance to co-manage with Brett. I wish those two nothing but the best."
In fact, Armstrong met with Jackson for a couple of hours Thursday.
"I went over all the discussions I've had with other teams with Les, just so he's going to have a firm base when he's making phone calls," said Armstrong.
He's got no sour grapes.
"First and foremost Mr. Hicks has been unbelievable to myself and to my family," said Armstrong. "He was very up front and professional. We had a good chat for about 45 minutes after (getting fired). But I wouldn't have expected anything less because he's a tremendous owner."