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Dallas Stars sale down to two Canadian businessmen

Jun 14, 2010, 1:29 AM EDT

Hicks2.jpgDallas Stars fans, start rejoicing.

The time when Tom Hicks is
no longer the owner of the Stars is drawing ever closer, which can only
be a relief during a time in which the team is completely handcuffed
financially. Hicks Sports Group, the holding company that owns the
Stars, is locked in a financial battle to pay back $525 million in
defaulted loans — HSG is currently attempting sell the Texas Rangers,
and now it seems that the sale of the Dallas Stars is getting ready to
take the next step.

David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail is
reporting that according to his sources, the next owner of the Dallas
Stars will be one of two Canadian businessmen.

The local potential
ownership group, fronted by Jim Lites and with Mike Modano as a
potential member, has fallen out of contention for ownership of the
Stars according to Shoalts.

So that leaves Calgary oil businessman
Bill Gallacher and Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi. Per Shoalts:

At this point, there is no favourite in this race but the clear winners
barring any surprise developments will be the NHL and Dallas hockey
fans. If either Gallacher or Gaglardi is presented to the league
governors for approval this summer, it will be a second home run on the
ownership front for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman after some
embarrassing whiffs. Both men have deep pockets, something of a rarity
among NHL owners in recent years.

The key words there are “deep pockets”. As Hicks’ spending habits
started to dry up, so did the Stars ability to continue to maintain a
high level of success. While there certainly some growing pains
associated with the transition to Joe Nieuwendyk’s and coach Marc
Crawford’s new system, it’s seemed for the past few seasons that the
Stars were just a few players away from truly being special –
especially on defense.

The Stars are currently sitting $14 million or so under the salary
cap with six spots open on the roster. In reality, the team is
handcuffed by an internal budget that likely limits the Stars to $10
million under the cap; a very painful proposition for fans that see a
team on the cusp of making the next step.

While Gallacher would be a welcome addition to the NHL and to Dallas, you have to think that Tom Gaglardi would ultimately be the best choice. He is part owner of the Kamloops Blazers and has ties with the NHL already. Gallacher’s deep pockets would be welcome, certainly, but one with deep pockets and an in with the league would be welcomed with open arms.

It’s highly unlikely that a change in ownership will be able to help
the Stars this summer — free agency begins in July and the board of
governors still needs to vote on which ownership group they’d approve.
It’s more than likely that both Gaglardi and Gallacher would be easily
approved, it’s just a matter now of HSG and Tom Hicks deciding on the
better offer. According to Shoalts, the team could be sold for between
$200 and $240 million “depending on how the team’s debt under current
owner Tom Hicks is handled.” Still, a change in ownership this summer
will certainly free up the team for any moves they need to make next
season.

The Stars have seen revenue drop a bit recently, after years of being
one of the highest revenue-producing teams in the NHL. They missed the
playoffs two years in a row for the first time since moving to Dallas
and there is not doubt that the team has taken a backseat to the Dallas
Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks and Texas Rangers — a dangerous position to
be in for hockey in North Texas.

Yet I can tell you that an eager and enthusiastic owner, one who is
smart and yet still willing to spend the money, has the ability to make
Dallas a hockey crazy city once more. The team has recently taken steps
to lower ticket prices and get away from the “corporate” reputation that
had surrounded the team since moving to American Airlines Center — the
lower bowl, once dominated by business-owned season ticket holders, is
now being catered to the true fan.

Whether it’s Bill Gallacher or Tom Gaglardi, there’s no doubt that
the change will be good not only for the Dallas Stars and the fans but
for the NHL as well. Hockey is amazingly popular in Texas and the league
needs for the Stars to be successful. More importantly, the team needs
an owner that knows what it takes to build a successful team. Hicks’
strategy was to hand over control to Bob Gainey and then sit back and
reap the benefits; since his departure as GM it’s been nothing but a
downward spiral.

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