DALLAS - Just returned from the American Airlines Center watching your Dallas Stars go through a morning skate, and it seems to me I am one of the dwindling minority who really wants to see hockey regain some of the footing it has so badly lost in recent years.
The regular season begins next Friday night with a home game against the Blackhawks; one front office person who is familiar with the team's ticket situation told me that attendance for home fake (i.e. preseason) hockey games has been less than 3,000. The season ticket base is less than 10,000, and the team is pushing all sorts of "package" deals to entice customers.
Some of this is as a result of preason hockey just being preseason hockey. No one should be forced to watch fake hockey, basketball, or football games. They are a ripoff. Baseball is different because spring training is one of the great times in a baseball season.
But one of the items the new owner of the Dallas Stars must do, and it sounds as if that the team is actually going to be sold sooner rather than later to Tom Gagliardi, is to find a new team president.
(Full disclosure - I have never met Dallas Stars interim president Tony Tavares; the few times I have tried to coordinate an interview I've been politely blown off, told that he prefers to remain behind the scenes.)
Don't care that he doesn't want to talk to me, but for a franchise that has fallen so far behind in the FW/d sports scene, it is bizarre to have a team president embrace invisibility.
It is difficult to blame too much on Tavares. The team is stuck in banckruptcy, and his hands are tied to whatever the lenders allow him to do. The team's front office from marketing to a few other key positions have been vacated, and not occupied since.
When he took the job he did so with the knowledge that he was going to be interim. He immediately put a stop order on all of the free tickets that were being handed by the truck. Tavares wanted to present the Stars to any potential buyer as is, and not create any illusion. Plus, handing out freebies while thousands pay face value is a slap in the face to your most important client.
After this team is bought, one of the first items is to thank Tavares for his time and to replace him immediately. Then start handing out cheap tickets again, maybe a few freebies, and create something resembling at atmosphere at a hockey game. This team needs people at the game, however they get in.
After that, hire Mike Modano. Mike may sound glib and aloof, but he deeply cares about hockey and this team. He wants to do something; his greatest asset would be on the corporate side rather than the hockey side. Someone within the organization needs to mentor Mike on the finer points of selling this team, and then cut him loose. That process may take a while, but Mike is an asset to this organziation.
The Stars can regain some of the footing they have so clearly lost in the last three playoff-less years, but it will literally have to start at the top by finding a team president who knows how to sell his team, his players, and his sport.
Then the Stars must make the playoffs.
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