As the 2013 shortened season starts its final stretch, the Stars find themselves in the very similar spot of 9th in the West, just outside of a playoff spot. The one constant through all the line changes and call ups between the AHL affiliate, Texas Stars and the Dallas team is the commitment to win from the front office. At the head is the familiar face and tones of President and CEO, Jim Lites.
As Dallas finds themselves up against the trade deadline in a week, and already having dealt their captain of the last 7 years, Brenden Morrow, Lites and his staff which includes General Manager, Joe Nieuwendyk, are looking at their roster and having to make the difficult decision of staying put from this point forward and trying to crack the top-8 with the personnel they have, or if they’ll look to move one or more of their vets that are looking at a year or less remaining on their current contracts.
But just as important as the product on the ice is in regards to moving into the future, so is the branding of the team. Of course, none of it would be possible had it not been for the “heroics” of owner, Tom Gaglardi. After missing the playoffs for four straight seasons, one of the hardest jobs that faced Jim Lites was enticing the fickle Dallas/Ft. Worth sports fans to continue to spend their money and attend Stars games.
“I don’t like apathy,” Jim said. “I hate when people preface with, ‘I used to be a STH.’ We’re a deal. People don’t attend the games because we’re too expensive. It’s time for the marketplace to support this franchise. Tom has spent the money to make this thing successful.”
Even the business world is being looked to by Lites and the Stars to support the organization. “I challenge everyone, the banks, the lawyers and everyone who makes money off the Dallas Stars that they need to support the team.” Jim mentioned that he had a discussion with a Bank of America executive that as the financial institution that refinanced the majority of the debt that Tom Gaglardi “inherited” in the purchase of the team that he expected BOA to “purchase 4 sets of 5 season tickets.” When it comes to “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” Jim Lites is definitely the head lion with the largest claws.
But what drives Jim? This is his second swim with the Dallas Stars. He built “Hockeytown.” What more is there to accomplish?
“My greatest accomplishment,” Lites said without hesitation, “was bringing the Stanley Cup here to Dallas. With Detroit, we were instrumental in bringing the Russians in and building the core, but Detroit had an established history. With Dallas, we came down from Minnesota, but we came down to a market where hockey was absent and the fanbase was non-existent. So to bring the Cup here…my name is on the Stanley Cup and it will be there forever.”
Jim continued, “To have the opportunity to do this again at 60 and for Tom to have the confidence in me to do this in my hometown is my motivation.”
Lastly, Jim mentioned through his career with all the teams he’s been a part of, he’s only “created” one jersey and that was during the one year he spent in Phoenix. Today, the “Aztec” look to the Coyote’s jerseys is the mastermind creation from Mr. Lites. Last summer, the Stars made it known that it was their intention to submit to the league a new jersey so that they could continue to update their identity.
“The jersey is still being tweaked. The striping and secondary logo are being worked on,” Lites said. “The color and logo on the crest has been completed. I’ve only done one jersey in career (Jim laughed and immediately pointed out he wasn’t part of the Mooterus) with the Phoenix Coyotes. Wayne (Gretzky) wanted a timeless look in Phoenix. Tom is a traditionalist. He doesn’t like “no color” and we’re the only team in league with no logo or crest on the front. We deserve better.”
“We’ve experimented with every color. I’ve seen it Edmonton blue and orange cause that’s the color of Kamloops,” Jim mentioned. “At the end of the day, the fans convinced the front office that the color needs to be green.”
Mr. Lites did hint to one aspect of the jersey’s new look. When I mentioned to him that I, too, am a traditionalist and the one look that I thought was fantastic on hockey jerseys was laces on the collar. As I’ve mentioned many times over, we here at StarsInsider will never deal with speculation, but when I asked Jim about the possibility of laces, he simply smiled and said, “let’s just say, you won’t be disappointed.”
Stars fans have so much to look forward to in the immediate future. Even if this year ends the way the previous four have, the fans have to think that this roller coaster has gone through the valley and the dark tunnel and is coming out into the light and will start heading upwards. The youth that has been the focus on the ice has proven that on most nights, they can play with the best the league has to offer (at least the West). The fans have shown the confidence with the increase in television viewership and they have the largest attendance increase of all the other 29 teams (32% increase in attendance over last season). From the owner down to Mr. Lites and to GM Joe, the Stars front office realize their roles and even as separate cogs in the business, together, they form quite the oiled machined destined for very long runs into the post season. Get ready, Dallas. There is going to be a lot of hockey being played at the American Airlines Center. And if you look real close, you may even find yourself sitting next to Jim Lites, himself. Who better to drive this team into the future than a fellow fan?