Lites: Gaglardi 'committed, a hockey guy'

Dallas Stars president Jim Lites says that the team’s new owner, Tom Gaglardi, will bring commitment and a passion for hockey.

The Vancouver businessman officially became the team’s owner today after getting approval from a bankruptcy court in Delaware and closing the sale.

“Committed, really committed,” Lites said of Gaglardi Friday afternoon. “He is a true hockey guy. Everybody is different, but he is more like (Detroit Red Wings owner) Mike Ilitch to me than any other owner I’ve worked with, and that includes (New York Giants owner) John Mara.”

Lites is returning to the post of Stars president, a job he held from 1993 to 2007, except for a brief period in 2002 when was the president and CEO of the Phoenix Coyotes. Since leaving the Stars, he’s worked for Hicks Sports Marketing Group, the New York Giants of the NFL and a tech company in Calgary.

The talks with Gaglardi about rejoining the Stars began on opening night of the hockey season and wrapped up just a few weeks ago.

“It was pretty rocky,” Lites said of the first meeting with Gaglardi. “He was pretty rough on me, as he should. I remember telling my wife that we shouldn’t quit our day jobs. But the feedback was really good and I spent a lot of hours communicating with Tom via text and email, and then he brought me to Vancouver two or three weeks ago and we spent a couple days together.”

Lites said said the 43-year-old Gaglardi’s business background will serve him well as the owner of an NHL franchise.

“He’s self-made. He made his money in the hospitality industry, much like Mr. Ilitch had,” Lites said. “The hotel business and the restaurant business is more like what we do. You are taking care of customers all the time. That’s his background.”

And another plus is Gaglardi’s passion for the game. He’s a life-long hockey fan and is part of the leadership group of the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League.

“He is a true hockey guy in the sense that he loves the sport, understands it, knows who the general managers are through the entire league and knows who everybody has drafted,” Lites said. “He’s a student of other franchises and he’s owned a junior team at the highest level. He will tell you that he’s made mistakes in that business and learned from them.”

Lites said there is a lot of work to do quickly on rebuilding the business side of the franchise. A lot of key players on that side of the equation have left – Jeff Cogen, Geoff Moore, Colin Faulkner to name a few.

Attendance at the games, which has lagged this season, is a big issue. Getting people in seats at American Airlines Center is a priority. Lites also said there is an adjustment for ticket prices in the works.

As far as what is happening on the ice, things seem to be going pretty well under GM Joe Nieuwendyk.

“On the hockey side of the business, Joe has done a fabulous job and Tom appreciates it,” Lites said. “I am sure there will be no changes on what the hockey team is doing. They are doing a great job.”