Dallas Stars: Jim Lites

DALLAS -- Ten years after leaving the Dallas Stars organization, Bob Gainey returned Wednesday and was formally introduced as the team’s new Senior Advisor to the Hockey Department.

“It's a good time for me because I have followed the trail of the changes and the progress in the NHL from the administrative view over the past 20 years,” Gainey said during a press conference at American Airlines Center. “We’ve had a number of changes to the CBA, there’s been expansion and big changes a few years ago on how the game is played on the ice with rule changes. I've been able to live and adapt through all of that and take certain parts out of each of them that can apply today.”

The 58-year-old Gainey, who was acting in a similar capacity with the Montreal Canadiens until a couple months ago, said he will be a “consultant without boundaries.” He will offer input on various issues throughout the organization, on both the hockey side and the business side.

“I’ve had many experiences in pro hockey over a long period of time in the NHL,” Gainey said. “My goal would be to use some of those experiences, some of those valuable lessons learned to assist Tom Gaglardi in his ownership position, to assist Jim Lites in his position as president and CEO and to assist Joe Nieuwendyk in his operation of the hockey department in any way possible to bring the Dallas Stars in a better competitive light, better financial light and to rejoin in the sports community in Dallas as an important player.”

Gainey, who won five Stanley Cups as a player with Montreal, was the head coach of the Stars from 1990 to 1996 and general manager from 1992 to 2002. He was the architect of the Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup championship team. He was GM in Montreal from 2003 to 2010, making the playoffs four of five years and finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference in 2007-08.

“Bob Gainey is a winner,” said Lites. “We want to win the Stanley Cup. That's our goal, and that’s all we’re thinking about. Having a person of Bob's stature will help us get there.”

As far as Gainey’s exact responsibilities and how everything will work, that is still a work in progress.

“As we move ahead we’ll continue to define the description of things,” said Nieuwendyk. “Using Bob as a resource, so much history, so much experience, wisdom and insight, I will be able to benefit a lot from those things. We’ll define things as we move along. From my perspective, it’s a tremendous opportunity. I am really looking forward to communicating with Bob on a number of levels with team related issues.”

And it will take some time for Gainey to re-familiarize himself with the organization. He’ll spend time learning the players so he can offer input on that side of things.

“An outside set of eyes can bring a different view. Somebody that is overvalued, I might have a different view of that or somebody that is undervalued, I could have a different view of that,” Gainey said. “I am going to need to see training camp, some of the season and some of the games in Austin to be able to apply my opinion and my analysis to the players that are in the system.”

The hiring of Gainey is another step in the process as the Stars try to move forward Gaglardi, who said turning around a team that has missed the playoffs four years in a row will take time, but that adding someone of Gainey’s caliber on the management side of things is a big boost.

“We want to get better and we need to get better obviously and that's a process, unfortunately,” Gaglardi said. “I wish there were quicker ways to get there, but the only way to do this the right way is with young players and through the draft and developing players. That's what I've learned in my stint as an owner in another league (Western Hockey League) and I don’t think it’s any different in this league. Free agency is one route to get better, but it's wrought with pitfalls. You have to be very smart, and at some level lucky, to benefit that way. And obviously there are trades.

“The best way I know how to get better is to have great management, so it’s exciting for me to have a man of Bob’s experience, status and wisdom express a desire to join our organization. It was a no-brainer for us.”
The Dallas Stars made the hiring of former GM Bob Gainey as a consultant official today. Gainey will be introduced at a press conference next Wednesday. Here's the release from the Stars.
The Dallas Stars announced today that the club has hired Bob Gainey as Senior Advisor to the Hockey Department.

Gainey, 58, returns for his second stint with the Stars’ organization. He was the club’s head coach from 1990-1996, and served as General Manager of the team from 1992-2002. Gainey was truly the architect in leading the Stars franchise to seven consecutive playoff berths, five division titles, two Stanley Cup Finals appearances, and of course, the 1999 Stanley Cup championship.

"I have great faith in the vision Tom Gaglardi, Joe Nieuwendyk and Jim Lites have in rebuilding this franchise,” said Gainey. “I'm looking forward to rejoining the organization, and lending my advice and guidance as we strive to get the Stars back on top."

"I'm extremely pleased that we are adding a respected hockey man the caliber of Bob Gainey as a senior advisor to our staff,” said Dallas Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. “His experience and wisdom in this business is second-to-none, and he'll be an incredible asset as we continue to build our team to championship levels."

A native of Peterborough, Ontario, Gainey most recently worked in the Montreal Canadiens organization, serving in a variety of capacities, including general manager of the club from 2003-2010. He served as the Habs’ interim head coach on two occasions and was most recently a special advisor to the general manager. In his time with the Canadiens, he helped lead the team to playoff berths in four of five seasons as GM, including the 2007-08 season when Montreal ended the regular season with the Eastern Conference’s best record.

“The Stars had a fantastic opportunity to add a universally-respected hockey man in Bob Gainey to the mix, and his presence and voice will be extremely beneficial to the group moving forward,” said Stars President Jim Lites.

A 1992 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Gainey won five Stanley Cups as a player, an NHL-record four Selke Trophies as the league’s best defensive forward, as well as the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the 1978 Playoffs. In 1,160 career regular season NHL games, all with the Montreal Canadiens, Gainey amassed 239 goals and 262 assists for 501 points. He added 73 points (25 goals, 48 points) in 182 career Stanley Playoff contests.
The Dallas Stars are close to hiring former GM Bob Gainey as a consultant, team president and CEO Jim Lites said Wednesday. An official announcement is expected next week.

“I’m a big fan,” Lites said. “We’re excited because of what Bob brings to this market, to this team and to the needs we’ve identified collectively. I just think he is going to be great.”

Gainey, who won five Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, joined the Stars franchise as head coach in 1990 and became GM in 1992. He stepped down as coach in 1996, but kept the GM title through 2002. He was the GM when the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999.

He also served as Montreal’s GM from 2003-2010 and had been a consultant with the Canadiens until just recently.

Lites said Gainey could consult on a variety issues throughout the organization, especially as an extra voice of input for GM Joe Nieuwendyk.

“He’s actually offered to help in any way he can,” Lites said. “But’s he’s really going to be a senior adviser guy on issues like, not so much who should we hire as opposed to do we need to hire anybody? How do you want to grow? How do we make ourselves bigger and better? Do we need more experience in a particular place? Do we need a more experienced guy in Cedar Park and who should those candidates be?

“At the end of the day those decisions will be made by Joe but Joe will enjoy, I think, a deeper, richer voice. And Joe has been real supportive. Joe has good chemistry with Bob."

Lites added that the hiring of Gainey is another sign that Tom Gaglardi is willing to do what it takes to get the franchise on the right track.

“The market will appreciate that Tom Gaglardi is saying that I am going to make us better,” Lites said. “You don’t get Bob Gainey for ten bucks.”

Prospect Note: OHL Finals

Dallas Stars prospects Jamie Oleksiak and Brett Ritchie are on the brink of elimination in the Ontario Hockey League Finals. Their Niagara team lost 4-1 to London Wednesday night in Game 4 of the series.

London leads the series 3-1. Ritchie had an assist in Wednesday’s game. Game 5 is Friday night.

The winner of the series will advance to the Memorial Cup, which will feature the champions of the Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and this year’s host team, the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL.
FRISCO -- The Dallas Stars cleaned out their lockers in Frisco Wednesday and there were mixed emotions. There was disappointment that the team was packing it up and shutting it down for the season just as the Stanley Cup playoffs were getting underway.

“It’s very disappointing. We were very close but not able to make it,” said goaltender Kari Lehtonen. “It hasn’t hit me yet and it probably won’t until other teams start playing tonight. That’s going to be hard to see, them going for the Cup and we’re just eating popcorn and watching.”

There was some optimism as well. The past couple of years the Stars have headed into the offseason under the cloud of uncertain ownership. But now, with Tom Gaglardi firmly in place as the team’s owner, things are looking up for next season and beyond.

“It’s going to be nice to have an owner here this summer. Our future is bright,” said forward Jamie Benn. “We have a lot of good young players. You saw that in the last game. I think we’re going up. We’re going to keep progressing here and see what we can do.”

This is the fourth straight season the Stars have missed the playoffs, three of them under current GM Joe Nieuwendyk. But for the first time since he has taken over, Nieuwendyk will not have his hands tied by a tight budget and will have the backing of a strong owner.

“This summer is different than many summers because since day one that Tom Gaglardi took over you could feel that a cloud moved away from our organization,” said Nieuwendyk. “He’s passionate about winning, he cares about our group and we sensed that from the day he took over. There was a different buzz about our team and that is exciting, not only for the last couple months but looking ahead to next season and this summer.

“It’s a different dynamic in play this summer, having that stability, having that backing, now I feel like we’re a player again.”

The Stars, who are in a good position as far as the salary cap and have an owner who is willing to spend some to money if the situation is right, are expected to be an active player in the free agent market when it opens July 1. They should be a more active player when it comes to trade talks as well.

“The good news is we have flexibility. You need cap room and flexibility to be successful, if you don’t have you can’t,” said Stars president Jim Lites. “The difference between this year and last year there now is a guy there that you can call and say we have an opportunity to sign this player to this contract and he can make a difference for us for ten years. That opportunity didn’t exist before. That’s in the unrestricted free agent market.

“And, almost as important now, I think, is our opportunity to participate in is what I call the ‘we want to make a change but we’ve got no flexibility market,’ which is how this franchise acquired Brad Richards. A contract was stifling a team that overspent on a player, and it helps you get better. I think we’re there now. I think that is the biggest difference.”

As far as a budget for spending, Nieuwendyk said that is still to be determined. And there is still the question of what kind of system the Stars and the other 29 teams will be operating under when the league and the NHLPA negotiate a new CBA. The current one expires September 15.

The salary cap is expected to go up from the current level of $64.3 million prior to free agency on July 1, but the new system could bring changes and the possibility of a lower cap. Nieuwendyk said the Stars will have to play things smart and be prepared.

“We don’t know what the landscape is going to look like September 15, but what I will say is that we are well positioned as any team moving forward,” Nieuwendyk said. “We can’t say what the cap will be or what some of the dynamics that will be in play, but we are open for business and will be able to talk to a lot of teams about trades, free agency when it comes to July, and ways of making our team better."

Lower ticket prices paying off for Stars

January, 13, 2012
1/13/12
11:22
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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
1/06/12
10:56
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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
1/06/12
7:34
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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."
The Dallas Stars continue to talk to Mike Modano about a job in the organization, according to team president Jim Lites.

Modano announced his retirement in September after a 21-year career in the NHL, 20 of them with the Stars franchise.

Lites said Modano, the franchise’s all-time leader in just about every offensive category, likely will join the team on the business side of things, but the Stars want to make sure they find the right job for Modano, not just any job.

“Mike will do whatever we want; I just want to make sure we use him effectively. I want to make sure he is comfortable with what he is doing and it is substantive,” Lites said. “So what we want to do with Mo is get him comfortable and know what he wants to do because if we have him do things he is not comfortable doing, it will fail and that won’t be good. We hopeful and we’re getting closer.”

Modano’s met with Lites several times and he’s met with Tom Gaglardi, who discussed Modano joining the Stars when he took over the team last month.

“The guy is the most important player I think to ever have worn a Stars jersey. In my opinion, he’s the best American-born hockey player to ever play in the NHL. I’ve gotten to know Mike in the last little while and enjoyed my time with him,” Gaglardi said. “I’ve expressed an interest that I’d like to have him involved in some capacity with the Dallas Stars and Mike has expressed the same thing to me, and more recently to Jim Lites. Those are discussions I expect to have with Mike to figure out what he wants to do and where he might be able to fit. It’s my intention to include Mike Modano with the Dallas Stars organization.”

Lites said he’s not sure when Modano might join the organization, but he did not rule out the possibility of it happening at some point this season.

As for Modano’s number being retired by the Stars, a team official said that is in the early planning stages. No date has been set.

Stars lowering individual ticket prices

December, 8, 2011
12/08/11
3:33
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FRISCO -- Tom Gaglardi is ready to launch his first initiative as the new owner of the Dallas Stars. The team is cutting prices for individual tickets starting Friday. The new prices affect most seating areas of American Airlines Center.

“One of the first things we did as a management team was look at individual ticket prices,” Gaglardi said. “The fans spoke and we listened. We’re pleased that we can now offer a $9 ticket and we feel that these new prices make Stars games more affordable. Our team needs a full building every night to give us a true home-ice advantage.”

The new prices go into effect immediately for the remainder of the Stars games for the 2011-12 season. Highlights of the plan include:

Mezzanine (Upper Level) Pricing

*The introduction of a $9 ticket (down from $15)

*A re-pricing of much of the Mezzanine; 85.6% of the upper level is now priced at $25-or-less

*The best seats of the Mezzanine have been reduced to $40 from $45

Lower Level Pricing

*A re-classification in the lower bowl to two main price points: $70 and $110

*Almost two-thirds (63.6%) of the seats in the lower bowl are now $70

*Over 1,500 seats have been reduced 30% from $100 to $70

*The best seats in the house (center ice) have been reduced from $150 to $110

The goal is simple. The Stars want to get people in the building. The Stars rank 29th in the league with an average attendance of 11,469 so far this season. In 2009-10 they averaged 17,215, ranking 17th.

“It’s pretty obvious we have a challenge. Our team has been faceless and ownerless for a bit of time,” said Stars president Jim Lites. “We’ve seen an erosion of our season base and our ticket base in general. It’s always alarming and it happens in situations like this.”

The season ticket base is around 6,000 and the Stars have been selling about 5,500 individual tickets per game. Now, with Gaglardi and Lites at the helm, the Stars are starting the process of rebuilding attendance.

Since the new ownership came with the season already underway, the decision was made to tackle individual tickets first.

“We want to take advantage of the attention that is on us. The team is performing real well, so eyes are on us,” said Lites. “Tom said to me I want to react quickly, I want to do the right thing, what can we do? We studied what other teams have done where there was an ownership change in midseason, including the Texas Rangers in our market a year ago. Chuck Greenberg got a lot of positive feedback and fans by adjusting some prices. In their case it was less tickets and more concessions and parking. In our case we are starting with the basic premise of tickets because we need fans.”

The Stars did some market research and one issue stood out.

“Price, in every area of the building, is the first negative that our research revealed,” said Lites. “In talking about it with Mr. Gaglardi he said, ‘Jim, do what you’ve got to do to fill the building.’ I did some rescaling and simplifying of prices and some pretty dramatic changes in prices kind of across the board, almost everywhere. This is the result of the research that was done, what the fans were telling us and how Mr. Gaglardi and our management team have chosen to respond.”

The lower of individual ticket prices is one step in the process. Lites said addressing the season ticket sales will come down the road.

“We’re studying what the best franchises are doing,” said Lites. “What are they offering their season ticket holders? What’s special?”

Lites mentioned a YouTube video of Pittsburgh Penguins players delivering season ticket packages to season ticket holders. Don’t be surprised if Dallas Stars players are doing the same in the near future.

As for the new individual ticket prices, fans can take advantage starting Friday December 9 at 10 a.m. by going to DallasStars.com or by calling 214 GO STARS.


Stars hope for division shift in realignment

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
11:56
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The issue of realignment takes center stage when the NHL Board of Governors meets Monday and Tuesday in Pebble Beach, California.

It’s no secret that the Dallas Stars would like to move out of the Pacific Division, a place they've called home since 1998 and a place where three of their division rivals are two time zones away.

“It would be huge for us, competitively and in our market place,” said Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk. “No one likes to complain, but the travel does take a toll. You get home from a divisional game at three or four in the morning. Those things are tough and they add up over time. I think most importantly, from a TV standpoint, just getting our games on closer to our time zone or in our time zone preferably would be huge.”

The Stars are among the league leaders in travel miles every season and regardless of the first class accommodations, the heavy travel can put teams at a disadvantage.

“Those trips out west you always struggle with do you come home after the game and get home at early in the morning or come home the next day,” Nieuwendyk said. “Either way, you are just traveling all day. I played in both conferences as a player and there is no comparison.”

The television issue is big as well. The Stars will head out on the road for two big games this week against division rivals San Jose and Los Angeles. Both games with start at 9:30 p.m. and end around midnight, not exactly a prime time slot for viewing. This season, 12 of the Stars’ 41 road games will start at 9:00 p.m. or later. That includes ten Pacific Division road games plus a couple of games in Vancouver as well.

“People here watch television from 7 to 10 and the problem is many of the games are starting at 9 o’clock or later,” said Stars president Jim Lites. “When you start at 9, you are at the backside of the television viewing period and our television numbers suffer from it. And our television numbers have suffered from the day we were shifted from the Central to the Pacific. It’s problematic for us because nothing creates fans like watching it on television and for fans to be interested in it, particularly young fans, and for people to get involved.”

Lites said the Stars love the rivalries they’ve developed with the Sharks, Kings, Ducks and Coyotes, but he’d like to see some time zone friendly divisional rivalries.

“Optimally for us, we’d love to be playing in the Central time zone,” said Lites. “We’d love to play St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota. We’d like to play the old Norris Division.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is aware of Dallas’ concerns. He’s aware of concerns other teams have as well. He talked about them on his weekly radio show last week.

"Dallas, who's in the Pacific, plays a lot of its road games very late at night -- and so younger people in particular have a tough time staying up to watch the games on a regular basis. So that's an issue," Bettman said. "Minnesota is in a place where they're playing a lot of their games in the Northwest. And then you say, well, OK, if we put Winnipeg in the Northwest and we move Minnesota to the Central, isn't that great, and then Colorado says, wait a minute, then I'm the only U.S. club (in a division) with four Canadian ones. Crossing the border these days is rather time-consuming, and that puts us at a disadvantage.

“And you have the old arguments about the teams like Detroit and Columbus that are in the Eastern time zone, and they're saying, we're playing all of our teams or too many of our games west, from a TV standpoint.”

The plans

There are apparently two scenarios the league is looking at as far as realignment. One is simple and the other is far more ambitious. The more ambitious plan has been floating around for a while and was outlined again on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada over the weekend. It would fit Lites’ desire to see the Stars with teams resembling the old Norris Division.

That plan, according to the CBC report, would break the league into four conferences (see table below) and would have the Stars grouped with Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota, Nashville, Columbus and Winnipeg.

Under this proposal, there would be two conferences with eight teams and two with seven teams. The top four teams in each would make the playoffs and the first two rounds would be within each conference.

The plan would also include a more balanced schedule, which would have every team playing every other team at least once in a home-and-home series.

The simple plan would reportedly keep the current alignment and move Winnipeg to the Central and send Detroit to the Southeast.

The thought is that the teams in the Eastern Conference, for the most part, like the way things are now. The teams in the West are looking for change.

Whichever way the board goes, it would take a two-thirds vote to get it done. And Bettman said last week that he isn’t sure how it will go and if there would even be a decision this week.

"There's a lot of speculation about what's going to happen on realignment –and the answer is, as I sit here today, I'm not sure," Bettman said. "From the board perspective of making whatever decision they want to make, people are all over the place. If you ask each of the 30 clubs what their preference is, my guess is you'd get 30 different preferences. And as a result, what we really have to do is find the biggest layer of common ground. You're not going to get everybody's first choice. But, as we go through this process, and there are many steps of the realignment process that have to be done, in and outside the boardroom, the fact of the matter is the starting point is to figure out what the will of the board is."

Tom Gaglardi: 'The uncertainty is over'

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
2:43
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DALLAS -- Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi was formally introduced as the new owner of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center Monday afternoon.

"I want everybody to know that this is truly one of the best days of my life,” Gaglardi said.

And he had a message for fans, who have seen the team deal with financial woes the last couple years and miss the playoffs three straight seasons.

“I know that the last couple of years have been especially hard for Stars fans,” he 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.”

The 43-year-old Gaglardi is the President of Northland Properties Corporation, which he and his family run. The company owns and operates hotels and restaurants in Canada and employs more than 10,000 people. He also is part of the ownership group of the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League.

He first expressed an interest in buying the Stars in 2009 and spent more than a year going through the process of completing the deal for the team, which went through a bankruptcy proceeding.

“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 NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who was on hand for Monday’s press conference. “Watching him over the last year, we have the right owner at the right time for the right market for the right franchise.”

And now, Gaglardi said, it is time to move forward. He expressed faith in the job GM Joe Nieuwendyk has done over the past couple years, and joked about he’s admired Nieuwendyk for a lot longer than that.

“I loved watching him play, although he never played for a team I was a fan of. But I did admire him,” 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.”

Gaglardi, a life-long hockey fan who said he still plays the game a couple times a week, said he is a guy who believes in drafting and developing players. But he added that if the Stars need to spend some money to be competitive, they’ll go that route as well.

“We’re here to win. This isn’t about anything other than becoming a great team and pursuing championships,” Gaglardi said. “If Joe and his staff think that is something we can do in terms of stepping up and doing more in that regard, then we’re going to do it.”

Gaglardi said he believes in hiring quality people and empowering them to do their jobs. On the business side, he has hired Jim Lites to be president and CEO. Lites was president of the Stars when they first moved to Dallas in 1993 and held the post until 2007, except for a brief time in 2002 when he worked for the Phoenix Coyotes.

“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. Jim knows what to do. It will take time, but it will get done.”

And Gaglardi said he will bring a philosophy to the Stars that he picked up from a plaque on the wall of his father’s office. It’s helped make him what he is, and it will now help guide the Stars.

“It says ‘Excuses are only for people who make them,’” Gaglardi said. “He taught me that philosophy in leadership and I intend on instituting this principle into the Dallas Stars culture both on the ice and off.”

Lites: Gaglardi 'committed, a hockey guy'

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
4:12
PM CT
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.”

Dallas Stars sale: A timeline

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
4:02
PM CT
Here’s a look at some key moments in the sale of the Dallas Stars.

2005: The Stars lose $70 million in anticipated revenue due to the NHL losing the 2004-05 season due to the lockout.

Early 2009: Hicks Sports Group determines current cash flow shortfalls and those projected for 2010, 2011 and beyond require reduction in all expense categories.

March 31, 2009: HSG fails to make an interest payment on loans totaling more than $525 million, thus defaulting on the loans.

May 12, 2009: The Stars start receiving funds from an interest reserve accounts established as part of credit agreements to help fund operations. From May 2009 to January 2010, the Stars would receive $19 million from the interest reserve accounts to help fund operations.

November 9, 2009: Stars owner Tom Hicks, the NHL and the Dallas Stars enter into a letter agreement under which the NHL would oversee the sale of the Dallas Stars and its share of the American Airlines Center. The agreement provides for an NHL Monitor to oversee the operations of the team and the sale process.

January 2010: The interest reserve account is depleted. Stars begin talks with the NHL and lenders to secure additional funding.

February 1, 2010: Stars execute promissory note with CFV Lender, an NHL affiliate, for $19 million. With the Stars entering the CFV debt agreement, the NHL obtains exclusive right to control the operations of the team, including the authority to "cause a sale of the Dallas Stars." HSG no longer has the ability to control the Stars or its operations.

February 4, 2010: HSG and the Dallas Stars retain GSP Securities LLC to provide financial advice and assistance in connection with the sale of the Stars, its share of the American Airlines Center and related hockey assets.

Spring 2010: HSG, Stars and lenders begin process of looking at prospective buyers and investors. At least eight of the prospective buyers signed confidentiality agreements and were given access to an electronic dataroom to study the Stars' situation.

January 14, 2011: Stars secure an additional $24.6 million of borrowing capacity under the CFV debt agreement to help with cash flow needs for the remainder of the 2010-11 season.

April 13, 2011: The Stars and Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi, who is determined to have the best offer among prospective buyers, sign a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the sale of the team. Gaglardi receives "certain limited exclusivity rights" with respect to the proposed sale. The two sides begin negotiating and drafting documents in preparation for the sale of the Stars.

May 2011: Exclusivity rights end. Lenders continue to market team and engage in negotiations with potential buyers.

September 1, 2011: The Stars and Gaglardi complete negotiations on a Stalking Horse Purchase Agreement for the Dallas Stars, its share of the American Airlines Center and its hockey assets.

September 15, 2011: The Stars file for bankruptcy in a Delaware court and announce an agreement to sell the team to Gaglardi pending an auction and court approval. Court documents state the team has lost $91.5 million over the past three years and are expected to lose in excess of $31 million in 2011-12 before costs related to the sale.

September 19, 2011: The court in Delaware approves motions that keep the Stars running as a business while the team is in the bankruptcy process.

September 22, 2011: The court approves bidding procedures for the team, setting an auction date of November 21 and November 23 for a combined hearing to approve the sale and the team’s prepackaged bankruptcy plan. Competing bids are due October 22.

October 21, 2011: Former Texas Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg, considered the most likely person to possibly bid on the Stars and compete with Gaglardi in an auction for the club, announces he will not bid.

October 24, 2011: It becomes official that no other bidders have met a deadline to submit offers for the Stars, leaving Gaglardi’s stalking horse bid as the only bid.

November 9, 2011: The court approves moving the combined hearing to approve the sale of the Stars from November 18 to November 23.

November 16, 2011: News breaks that Gaglardi has decided to bring back former Stars president Jim Lites as president of the club and that the NHL Board of Governors has approved the sale of the team to Gaglardi.

November 18: The court in Delaware approves the sale of the team of the team to Gaglardi and confirms the Stars’ prepackaged bankruptcy plan. The sale is immediately closed. Gaglardi officially becomes the new owner of the Dallas Stars.

Dallas Stars announce Gaglardi as new owner

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
3:53
PM CT
The Dallas Stars have made the announcement that Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi is the team's new owner. Here is the release from the Stars:
Tom Gagliardi, President of Northland Properties Corporation, today purchased the National Hockey League Dallas Stars. The new owner will be introduced Monday at a news conference at American Airlines Center.

Gaglardi (pronounced guh-lar-dee) announced that he has named Jim Lites as the President and CEO of the Dallas Stars. Gaglardi said he believes that Lites will give a huge jump-start to the team as it works to recharge the Dallas Stars and fan experience.

“Jim Lites is the right guy at the right time to reposition and lead the franchise forward,” said Gaglardi. “I like his vision, resilience, marketing expertise and his total energy for this job,” said Gaglardi, “and he and I share a huge love of this game. “

The 43-year-old Gaglardi is the President of Northland Properties Corporation, the largest family-owned hospitality company in Canada. He has played hockey since he was five years old, and, in fact, he continues to play hockey on a Canadian competitive team. Gaglardi has noteworthy Texas roots; his mother is a Longview native, and he has “serious UT relatives” who live west of Fort Worth.

“I know the fans and the organization are relieved that this period of uncertainty is over,” said Gaglardi. “The team has established a solid foundation, and I am looking forward to working with Jim Lites and Joe Nieuwendyk, who I have always admired and think is doing a superb job, to reignite fan enthusiasm for this club.”

Lites, 58, is very familiar with his position having held it twice previously. Lites returns to the Stars with a reputation as one the finest administrators in professional sports. Over the course of his two prior stints with the Stars (1993-2002; 2003-2007), the team won seven Division Championships, two Western Conference Championships, two Presidents’ Trophies, and the 1999 Stanley Cup. Lites also served 11 years as COO of the Detroit Red Wings from 1982-1993. Since 2007, he managed the New York Football Giants’ Personal Seat license program at its new stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. In addition, he has been a consultant to Worldplay Networks, a highly successful technology company in Calgary.

It's official: Stars sold to Gaglardi

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
9:57
AM CT
The Dallas Stars officially have a new owner. A bankruptcy court in Delaware on Friday approved the sale of the team to Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi and confirmed the Stars’ prepackaged bankruptcy plan.

The NHL Board of Governors approved Gaglardi earlier this week by a fax vote, and the sale closed Friday afternoon.

Today’s events bring to a close a tough chapter in Stars’ history that began when Hicks Sports Group ran into hard financial times, defaulted on $525 million in loans in 2009, put the club up for sale in early 2010 and eventually saw the team run by the league and lenders.

Gaglardi is the President of Northland Properties Corporation, which he and his family run. The company owns and operates hotels and restaurants Canada and employs more than 10,000 people.

Gaglardi 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.

Gaglardi, a life-long hockey fan, has strong Texas ties. His mother is from Longview and he has family in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

He’ll take over a team that, according to court documents, lost $37.9 million in the last fiscal year and $91.5 million over the last three seasons. The Stars are expected to lose $31 million this season.

Court documents state that Gaglardi is “committed to keeping the Stars in Dallas and rebuilding the franchise both in terms of on-ice success and the fan experience.”

Gaglardi, whose bid for the team has been estimated at $265 million, has hired former Stars president Jim Lites to return as the team’s president. That’s a job Lites held from 1993 to 2007, except for a brief period in 2002 when he was the president and CEO of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Gaglardi will be introduced at a news conference in Dallas on Monday. He will drop the puck at the Stars-Oilers game on Monday night.

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