Dallas Stars: Jim Lites

Lower ticket prices paying off for Stars

January, 13, 2012
FRISCO -- The decision by the Dallas Stars to lower ticket prices under new owner Tom Gaglardi is paying dividends on the attendance front.

“Attendance has been really good. We’re up over 5,000 a game, paid,” Stars president Jim Lites said. “I don’t know where it would have trended anyway, but it’s certainly trending beyond what we would have expected without having done it.”

Before lowering ticket prices the Stars were averaging 11,470 as far as announced attendance. In the seven home games since the price change the announced attendance has been averaging 15,774. The average over the last four games has been 16,598.

Those much talked about $9 tickets have sold out every time. There are about 700 available and they go on sale game days.

“We had to put them up day of game or they would become fodder for scalpers to get,” Lites said. “The best way to get around that is to put them online day of game, so real fans can get them. It’s been real successful.”

Individual ticket sales are up and the new price structure is helping in other areas as well.

“It’s stimulated group sales and it’s stimulated seasons because it’s creating interest,” said Lites. “We’re hitting on all cylinders. We’re upgrading people from six-packs to twelve. I think people are starting to consider playoffs, when season ticket holders get priority. Generally, we’re really, really happy with all that is going on with the marketing side.”

Stars disappointed with realignment delay

January, 6, 2012
Dallas Stars president Jim Lites’ initial reaction to the news that the NHL had delayed its realignment plan for the 2012-13 season was short and to the point.

“Really disappointed,” Lites said.

That’s not a surprise. When the NHL’s Board of Governors approved a radical realignment plan in early December the Stars were considered among the big winners in the league. The Stars, who have played in the Pacific Division with Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix since 1998, would now play in a more time zone friendly conference with Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. The new alignment would mean less travel for the Stars and fewer late starts to road games, a big help on the television side of things.

The league’s plan replaced the current two conference/six division format with a four conference configuration. Two conferences would have eight teams and two would have seven. There would be a more balanced schedule with every team playing every other team twice, once at home and once on the road. There would be divisional playoffs.

But all that will have to wait now. Friday evening the league announced that the plan was on hold after the NHLPA failed to provide its consent.

“It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a plan that an overwhelming majority of our clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including players," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a release. "We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the plan with no success. Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season’s schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the realignment plan and modified playoff format for next season.”

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr offered a response Friday night, citing concerns over travel and how teams would qualify for the playoffs.

“Over the last month, we have had several discussions with the League and extensive dialogue with players, most recently on an Executive Board conference call on January 1. Two substantial player concerns emerged: (1) whether the new structure would result in increased and more onerous travel; and (2) the disparity in chances of making the playoffs between the smaller and larger divisions,” Fehr said. “The League set a deadline of January 6, 2012 for the NHLPA to provide its consent to the NHL’s proposal. Players’ questions about travel and concerns about the playoff format have not been sufficiently addressed; as such, we are not able to provide our consent to the proposal at this time. We continue to be ready and willing to have further discussions should the League be willing to do so.”

Some would say Friday’s developments on realignment are the opening skirmish in the looming battle over the next CBA. Talks over the CBA, which expires in September, are set to open soon.

Caught in the middle are the fans, who were seen as winners under the realignment plan and are now set to lose, according to Lites. A big part of realignment was a more balanced schedule that would see teams play in every building in the league at least once every season. Lites said an NHL survey showed 75 percent of U.S. fans wanted to see every team in their building and a similar number in Canada felt the same way.

“This is all about the fans. Now in our case it’s really important to us because of the strain that is put on our fans to maintain contact with us when we’re playing all those games on the West Coast. It’s a big issue for us to have games in the same time zone,” Lites said. “It was the best thing from the fans’ perspective with real extensive polling. I think that’s what pushed teams that had always looked at things parochially to do what is right for the fans and for the game. New Jersey and teams like that had traditionally voted against travelling to the West had said I am going to do the right thing for everyone.”

The vote was 26-4 in favor of the realignment plan back in December. But now a month later everything is up in the air and that’s not good news for the Stars, who were looking forward to playing in a new, time zone friendly conference next season.

“It's depressing,” said Lites “I know fans overwhelmingly want this. We fought for this for years, and now to have it there and delayed for reasons that don't make any sense to me, I don't get it.”

Quotable: Jim Lites on realignment delay

January, 6, 2012
Here's a quote from Dallas Stars president Jim Lites on the news that the NHL has delayed realignment because the NHLPA has not provided consent.

"Really disappointed," Lites said. "It's depressing. I know fans overwhelmingly want this. We fought for this for years, and now to have it there and delayed for reasons that don't make any sense to me, I don't get it."

Lites: Gaglardi 'committed, a hockey guy'

November, 18, 2011
Dallas Stars president Jim Lites says that the team’s new owner, Tom Gaglardi, will bring commitment and a passion for hockey.

The Vancouver businessman officially became the team’s owner today after getting approval from a bankruptcy court in Delaware and closing the sale.

“Committed, really committed,” Lites said of Gaglardi Friday afternoon. “He is a true hockey guy. Everybody is different, but he is more like (Detroit Red Wings owner) Mike Ilitch to me than any other owner I’ve worked with, and that includes (New York Giants owner) John Mara.”

Lites is returning to the post of Stars president, a job he held from 1993 to 2007, except for a brief period in 2002 when was the president and CEO of the Phoenix Coyotes. Since leaving the Stars, he’s worked for Hicks Sports Marketing Group, the New York Giants of the NFL and a tech company in Calgary.

The talks with Gaglardi about rejoining the Stars began on opening night of the hockey season and wrapped up just a few weeks ago.

“It was pretty rocky,” Lites said of the first meeting with Gaglardi. “He was pretty rough on me, as he should. I remember telling my wife that we shouldn’t quit our day jobs. But the feedback was really good and I spent a lot of hours communicating with Tom via text and email, and then he brought me to Vancouver two or three weeks ago and we spent a couple days together.”

Lites said said the 43-year-old Gaglardi’s business background will serve him well as the owner of an NHL franchise.

“He’s self-made. He made his money in the hospitality industry, much like Mr. Ilitch had,” Lites said. “The hotel business and the restaurant business is more like what we do. You are taking care of customers all the time. That’s his background.”

And another plus is Gaglardi’s passion for the game. He’s a life-long hockey fan and is part of the leadership group of the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League.

“He is a true hockey guy in the sense that he loves the sport, understands it, knows who the general managers are through the entire league and knows who everybody has drafted,” Lites said. “He’s a student of other franchises and he’s owned a junior team at the highest level. He will tell you that he’s made mistakes in that business and learned from them.”

Lites said there is a lot of work to do quickly on rebuilding the business side of the franchise. A lot of key players on that side of the equation have left – Jeff Cogen, Geoff Moore, Colin Faulkner to name a few.

Attendance at the games, which has lagged this season, is a big issue. Getting people in seats at American Airlines Center is a priority. Lites also said there is an adjustment for ticket prices in the works.

As far as what is happening on the ice, things seem to be going pretty well under GM Joe Nieuwendyk.

“On the hockey side of the business, Joe has done a fabulous job and Tom appreciates it,” Lites said. “I am sure there will be no changes on what the hockey team is doing. They are doing a great job.”
It looks like new ownership will bring back a familiar face to the Dallas Stars front office.

Multiple sources confirm that former Stars president Jim Lites will return as the team’s president when Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi takes over as the team’s new owner.

Lites served as Stars president from 1993 to 2007, except for a short period in 2002 when he was president and CEO of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Gaglardi could be announced as the team’s new owner as early as Friday. A court hearing is scheduled for Friday morning in Delaware, where a judge is expected to approve the sale of the team to Gaglardi and approve the club’s prepackaged bankruptcy plan.

Meanwhile, another part of the process is complete. A source confirmed Wednesday evening that the NHL's Board of Governors already has voted to approve Gaglardi as the new owner of the Stars. The vote was done via fax, and that requires a unanimous vote.

Gaglardi is the President of Northland Properties Corporation, which he and his family run. The company owns and operates hotels and restaurants throughout Canada.

Gaglardi also leads the ownership group of the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. The ownership group includes Shane Doan, Mark Recchi, Jarome Iginla and Darryl Sydor.

The Stars are expected to formally introduce Gaglardi at a press conference early next week, possibly on Monday.