DALLAS – Tom Gaglardi grew up in Canada playing hockey and fanatically cheering for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. He still does both.
Now the Vancouver businessman owns the Dallas Stars, the NHL team in the same market with his favourite football team.
Gaglardi was formally introduced Monday as the Stars’ new owner two years after he first spoke with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about the possibility of buying the team.
“This is truly one of the best days of my life, I’m so honoured and humbled to have a franchise in the NHL, and especially one that I’ve spent my whole live growing up in Vancouver admiring with all the success the Dallas Stars have had,” Gaglardi said. “I can’t believe the day has come to be associated and involved with such great tradition and such a great city.”
The Stars had reached an agreement in September to sell the team to Gaglardi. To help facilitate the deal, the Stars filed a pre-packaged bankruptcy plan that was approved by a Delaware court before the NHL board of governors on Friday unanimously approved the new ownership for the team previously owned by Tom Hicks.
“This point is, I think, a defining moment for this franchise,” said Bettman, who was in Dallas for the introduction. “If the level of determination and perseverance 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.”
Bettman went on to describe Gaglardi as “the right owner at the right time, the right market and the right franchise.” Dallas also reintroduced Jim Lites for his third stint as the team’s president and CEO.
Gaglardi’s mother grew up in Longview, Texas, where he used to visit his grandparents two or three times a year while growing up. He still has relatives in Texas, including Burleson less than an hour from the arena where the Stars play.
The 43-year-old Gaglardi still plays hockey competitively once or twice a week in Canada, and remains a big Cowboys fan. He has a closet filled with Cowboys items such as T-shirts and sweat pants he wears all the time.
Lites was also the team’s president after the Minnesota NorthStars’ franchise moved to Texas for the 1993-94 season through 2002, then again from 2003-07. Dallas won the 1999 Stanley Cup and seven division championships under Lites’ leadership.
Since losing to Detroit in the 2008 Western Conference finals, the Stars have missed the playoffs three consecutive seasons and attendance has slipped drastically.
The Stars were off to an 11-3 start this season and leading the Western Conference under new coach Glen Gulutzan before losing five in a row. They had dropped to fourth place in the Pacific Division going into Monday night’s game against Edmonton.
“It’s a tough job,” Lites said. “It feels a little less daunting today than it did in ’93 when we didn’t know if there were any fans here. … In this situation, we have an unbelievable building, a proven marketplace and a great television market.”
Former Stars players Brett Hull and newly retired Mike Modano were in attendance as was former team owner Norm Green, who moved the team from Minnesota to Dallas.
During the news conference, Green even stood up and asked Gaglardi how long it would take the Stars to get back to another Stanley Cup.
Gaglardi, who had earlier said his philosophy was to win from within by drafting and developing players, said he was aware of the history and thanked Green for his best wishes. The new owner then smiled, referring Green’s question to general manager Joe Nieuwendyk.
“I agree with Tom’s philosophy that you build a winner from within,” Nieuwendyk said. “You see in the NHL nowadays how quickly you can turn things around. Even though we’re in a little bit of a slump right now, we were the toast of the league 10 days ago. I’d rather go through it now than later in the season, and we’re going to build this thing back up.”