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Wednesday, August 11, 2010
It's about team

By Mark Stepneski

The Dallas Stars have parted ways with some popular individual players this summer, but hockey is considered by many to be the ultimate team sport, and that’s what the Dallas Stars will be emphasizing this season – team.

It’s a message that GM Joe Nieuwendyk and Marc Crawford will push and it’s a message that the team’s marketing staff will capitalize on as well.

“Your marketing message for the year has to flow up from an authentic place; it flows up from the team because you are trying to encapsulate the best of your team. This year it is: ‘It’s About TEAM’ and team will be in all capital letters,” Geoff Moore, executive vice president for sales and marketing. “It’s because the Dallas Stars were not built by one player.  Certain players had more to do with it than others, but it was always about a team. “

That emphasis on team was a staple of the Bob Gainey-Ken Hitchcock era, when the Stars had their great run in the late 90’s and it continues as the Stars move into a new era.

“What did Bob Gainey and Ken Hitchcock preach every single day? It was about the team,” said Moore.  “With Dave Tippett it was if everything you do is for the best of the team then you can’t go wrong.  That’s what Joe and Marc are pushing forward – that if you work hard for each other every day then you can’t go wrong.”

To Moore that emphasis on team doesn’t stop at the locker room doors, but has a much wider reach and hopes it will connect with the fan base.

“The fans are part of that, the staff is part of that and the people that work at the arena are part of that,” he said. “Every Stars fan wants us to be good and they want us to go back to the playoffs. They can also positively influence that by taking a little bit of a risk and caring, investing their time, passion and energy, and coming to games.  They are more likely to get what they want by being a part of it then by withdrawing from it. There’s a risk to caring, I understand that. But we’re better together and stronger together and that’s what we all want.”

Selling the Stars is harder these days. Missing the playoffs two straight seasons will do that. The Stars are a team in transition and Moore said it was a transition that was going to have to happen eventually. The Stars could have done it right after the lockout, going younger and faster as the league put rules in place that emphasized speed. But the Stars had a solid veteran core and the decision was to let them take a run at it, and then get younger down the road. That paid off with a run to the Western Conference Finals in 2008.

Now, the Stars are at the place in the road where they are transitioning towards the youth of their organization.  The departure of popular players like Mike Modano and Marty Turco makes the transition tougher on fans, but Moore sees good things on the horizon.

“Whatever softness we have in our business right now is not because Mike leaves or Turco leaves, because it wasn’t like we sold out every game last year with them. The softness we’re experiencing now is because there are peaks and valleys over the 17 years of our existence,” Moore said. “The transition we are in right now is somewhat of a valley, although I don’t think it’s a very deep one.  The young players we have coming up and playing important roles are really good. When we get a new owner he is likely going to bring passion and investment. That’s what Tom Hicks brought us. If we have an owner that injects the same passion and resources the way that Tom Hicks did then we are going to be gold.

“As painful as it is to see your great players of the past transition, I think it’s more about where we are as a team and I also think that is what is going to bring the fans back.”

Ticket sales watch

As far as ticket sales so far this summer, Moore said there was some positive news.

“The renewals on season tickets are going better than last year,” Moore said. “They’re not as good as we hope they’ll be in a couple years after we return to the playoffs and have more success, but better than last year.”

Individual tickets don’t go on sale until September 10, and Moore thinks the Stars have some good draws on the schedule this season.

“We have Ovechkin and the Capitals, Crosby and the Penguins coming in and having the Stanley Cup winner be a Western Conference team helps,” Moore said.  “Mike Modano in Detroit helps on opening night and the December 29 game we have against them because it adds a story line to an already popular game.  Turco with the Blackhawks helps that one.  Our partial season ticket sales are being buffeted by that because if you want to buy tickets now to those games you have to buy tickets to six games at least.

“But we have a lot of work to do. I don’t want to sit here and say it’s going as well as we’d like it go because we always want it to be better, and until you sell out every game you’re going to want that.”