It was an energetic front office and sales team that arrived in Dallas in May 1993 as the Stars franchise moved from Minnesota to Texas.
Jeff Cogen, Jim Lites, Geoff Moore and others found out that they had to educate sports fans as much as anything else about a sport played on ice in football country. But slowly, they made it happen. Cogen was in the middle of it all. The salesman, who used to work for Ringling Bros. in selling the circus, helped drive people to the arena, handing out tickets if that's what it took to get them to at least try the sport.
As the education continued, the team saw steady improvement in the standings. And by 1999, the Stars had brought a Stanley Cup to Dallas.
Cogen called it the pinnacle of his career. He reflected on that career Tuesday after officially taking over as CEO with the Nashville Predators.
"Bob Gainey made us look like a genius," Cogen said about the former Stars GM and coach. "He did a tremendous job in helping us sell by just developing that product. There’s no substitute for what Bob Gainey did. We had made a nice marketing and sales foundation before we were really good, though. Those revenue streams helped fund the talent that took us there. It was a partnership."
The Stars made it back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2000 and continued to pack the building until the last few seasons, when sagging television ratings and a team that has missed the playoffs -- not to mention a lockout a few years back too -- has made selling tickets to the Stars a much tougher endeavor.
Cogen wasn't afraid to get creative, either. In the last few seasons, he had reduced season ticket prices in nearly the entire arena and did what he could to add value, whether that was discounted parking or food vouchers. But Cogen felt now, at age 52, was the time for the Stars president to move on to something else.
"The title is CEO in Nashville," Cogen said. "I’ve got additional responsibility. I won’t run hockey operations, but I'll run the business and answer to the ownership board. It was career growth for me. It was also time to slow down a little bit. I enjoy the size of the Nashville market. It’s 10 hours from where I grew up. I did the circus here and enjoyed it. It was a combination of those factors coupled with the uncertainty of new ownership that made me decide to do it."
The Stars have an experienced management team that isn't going anywhere. Geoff Moore, who was here when the club moved, is executive VP of sales and marketing and has developed a good relationship with the staff and key clients. Randy Locey (12 years on the job) is the executive VP of business operations and Robert Hutson (10 years) is the executive VP of finance and CFO.
The Stars are still going through deciding what the structure will be, but Cogen said the club is in good hands.
"We ran that as a committee," Cogen said. "I just made sure they did what they were supposed to, but all of them had direct reponsibilities and did them well."