SBJ/December 5-11, 2011/Franchises

Gaglardi wants to help Stars find their way

After nearly two years of being operated by the NHL, the Dallas Stars have a new owner.

Tom Gaglardi, 43, was named owner of the Stars last month after a bankruptcy court in Delaware approved the sale of the team and confirmed a prepackaged bankruptcy plan. Upon approval of the sale, Gaglardi hired Jim Lites as the team’s president and CEO, a role Lites previously has held with the franchise.


A Vancouver businessman, Gaglardi is the president of Northland Properties Corp., the largest family-owned hospitality company in Canada. He also holds a 50 percent ownership of the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers.
Gaglardi spoke the day after a Dallas 4-1 win over Edmonton about the Stars’ transition and his plans for the club.

Photo by: JAKE DEAN / DALLAS BUSINESS JOURNAL
You like to watch hockey, but I also understand you like to play hockey (in a recreational league), is that right?

GAGLARDI:
I do. It’s our NHL and we play for our Stanley Cup, so it’s pretty serious stuff. You’re not allowed to fight — you’re supposed to get suspended — but there’s fights. And it’s competitive. It’s deemed non-contact, but you can get hurt in this league. It happens. I’ve managed to have three broken noses, two broken ribs and a separated shoulder. But in my 30-plus years of playing, it’s not that bad when you think about it. I’ve been fortunate. I don’t have a lot of injuries. I’ll confess with you: We know waiting for us in the locker room is a big Coleman cooler of beer, Molson Canadian.

What is your first order of business as owner?

GAGLARDI: I don’t think it’s any mystery that the team has lost its way as far as connecting with the fan base here. I believe in the market; it’s a huge market and growing demographic. For years, the building was full, and the Stars had a great fan base, but we have lost our way. It was probably due to the ownership circumstances, the economy has been a factor, and we just haven’t been winning enough. If you look at the great NHL franchises, they all have their cyclical, down periods, so this isn’t abnormal. I believe if we do the right things on and off the ice, we will have fans back in the building supporting the Dallas Stars, and that’s what we intend to do.

What did you think about the attendance Monday night (11,458 announced for the game with Edmonton)?

GAGLARDI:
It wasn’t bad for a Monday night. In the past, there were a lot of comps and free tickets given to season-ticket holders and general public, and the past management favored that strategy, but as part of rebuilding the franchise, [interim president and CEO] Tony Tavares didn’t do that. It’s something I agree with — but it’s been kind of tough when you take that away. The building looks empty. But when you look at paid attendance year-over-year, it’s about the same.

You are joining an elite group of sports owners in Dallas, with Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban, Nolan Ryan and the Hunt family. Do you feel any competition with them?

GAGLARDI: I do feel competition. I say that because Dallas is very fortunate to have the teams that it has and the owners it has. I’m a lifelong Cowboys fan. It’s been a difficult last few years. There hasn’t been a lot of success, but I don’t know how you can say that Jerry Jones doesn’t live and breathe that team and go to every length he can to win. … The same as Mark: There’s no doubt that guy will do anything to win. Same thing with Nolan. I think we have great ownership in the city, and I think as a fan, all you can ask for is an owner that doesn’t care about anything else other than winning. I think my personality is different than other owners in Dallas, but I think one thing we do share is our passion to win. I will make the Stars the best franchise in the NHL, and I don’t think we are too far away.

Do you care about the valuation of the Stars?

GAGLARDI: If you look historically, the Stars have been a top-10-valued NHL team, and in some instances the top five. But I don’t think the way you go about this particular franchise, or any sports franchise, is to worry about those things. People say, “Gosh, you’ll lose some money,” and I say, “There’s no secret that the team is not making money today, but you can’t focus on that. You have to focus on the right things on and off the ice and making the best decisions that you can for the franchise.” … If we do the right things on the ice, the franchise will be where it should be. I’m a long-term owner; this is not a short-term deal. I’m 43 years old and I plan to own this team for the rest of my life.

Candace Carlisle writes for the Dallas Business Journal, an affiliated publication.
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