After two years of unpredictability, the Dallas Stars have a new owner who is committed to winning. A bankruptcy court in Delaware approved the sale of the Stars to Tom Gaglardi, a businessmen and life-long hockey fan from Canada.
“I know that the last couple of years have been especially hard for Stars fans,” Gaglardi said. “To all of you, first let me say thank you for your patience and your support, and please know that the uncertainty is now over.”
What Got Us Here
After Tom Hicks’ volatile and disorderly ownership of the Stars came to an end two years ago, the Dallas Stars have been in an enigmatic state. Once Hicks defaulted on his loans, he was forced to dissolve his ownership of the team, and the NHL and a group of lenders took over ownership of the team during the past two years.
The provisional and weak ownership the Stars have dealt with over the past two season has caused the team to deal with a reduction in resources, as the team has had difficulties resigning or luring veteran stars. Undoubtedly, the fans have also shown their disappointment in the franchise, as average attendance has dropped markedly over the past few seasons. In the 2007-2008 season (the last time the Stars made the playoffs), Dallas ranked 12th in average attendance. Dallas saw that ranking drop to 14th, 17th, and 23rd successively up to last season. This year, unfortunately, Dallas ranks last in average
attendance, pulling in just over 10,000 fans on average for a home game.
Thus, the sale to Gaglardi comes at an opportune time. If taken at his word, Gaglardi appears to be entering the ownership role committed to infusing the franchise with resources and supplying the sound foundation that has been lacking in Dallas. Also, Gaglardi has previous franchise ownership experience, as he served as part of the ownership group for the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke encouraging and supportive words of Gaglardi during the recent press conference for the new owner.
“If the level of determination and perseverance that Tom Gaglardi has shown in pursuit of this franchise is any indication of the future, the future is extraordinarily bright, and people will once again be celebrating the Stanley Cup here,” said Bettman. “Watching him over the last year, we have the right owner, at the right time, for the right market, for the right franchise.”
Of course, Bettman is probably just glad to have the Stars under reliable ownership, but nevertheless, the Stars and the league took a step forward with this sale. Not only does Gaglardi’s purchase of the team signal a positive sign for this illustrious franchise, but it also provides another glimmer that the NHL is continuing to rebound nicely from the dark days of the 2004 lockout, as proof of this can be seen in the fact that individuals such as Gaglardi are willing to invest in a relatively small-market team in the Southern portion of the league. Indeed, Gaglardi’s purchase of the team is a good sign for the Stars franchise and the league in general.
Nieuwendyk and the Front Office
Gaglardi hasn’t made it well-know what his future plans for the franchise are, but it appears he views General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk in a positive light.
“I loved watching him play,” Gaglardi said. “He is certainly fast becoming one of the great general managers of the National Hockey League, and we’re fortunate to have him here in Dallas.”
Longtime Stars President Jim Lites has also been brought back under the Gaglardi ownership. Lites served as the Stars President when the franchise moved to Dallas from Minnesota in 1993, and he held the position until 2007. Lites will be the Stars President and CEO.
“Having Jim Lites at the helm of the Stars is really an owner’s dream,” Gaglardi said. “He knows the market, he loves the game and he is totally committed to putting the Stars back in the rightful position as one of the elite franchises in the National Hockey League.”
Head Coach Glen Gulutzan also had positive words about Gaglardi, pointing out that the ownership move brings credibility and reliability to the team and the franchise.
“It’s very positive … We have somebody that can actually answer every question that the organization may have,” Gulutzan said. “And you listen to Tom and Jim Lites speak to players before we came out on the ice and the air was nice and clear. I think it picked everybody up a little bit, and now as you move forward you feel like a complete group. I know lots of people who know Tom from back in the Western Hockey League and they speak volumes of him. He’s a great guy, a hockey guy that likes to win. I think it’s going to be real good that we have a face to our franchise.”
Gaglardi brings a breath of fresh air to a franchise that has languished undeservedly over the past few years. It seems the Dallas Stars can only go up from here. With a new head coach, general manager, president, and owner, the team looks ready to turn the page to a new chapter in the history of the franchise.
“We’re here to win. This isn’t about anything other than becoming a great team and pursuing championships,” Gaglardi said.
And on a positive note, the Stars ended their five-game skid on Monday night, beating the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 in Dallas at the American Airlines Center.
Tim lives in Dallas, TX, and serves as a Dallas Stars correspondent for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal. He has professional sportswriting and editing experience in print and online media.