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Gaglardi brings enthusiasm, love for game to Dallas

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- Several years of uncertainty surrounding the Dallas Stars are over, as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it official early Monday afternoon: Tom Gaglardi is the new owner of the club.

"This point is I think a defining moment for this franchise as we move forward. If the level of determination and perseverance that Tom Gaglardi has shown in pursuit of this franchise is any indication of the future, the future is extraordinarily bright and people will once again be celebrating the Stanley Cup here," Bettman said.

Gaglardi is a 43-year-old Vancouver businessman who currently serves as the president of Northland Properties Corporation, the largest family-owned hospitality company in Canada. The junior-level Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League are among the companies currently falling under Northland's corporate umbrella.

"I'm so thrilled to be here. It is a very special day for me. This is truly one of the best days of my life," Gaglardi said. "I'm so honored and humbled to have a franchise in the National Hockey League."
"I think there's been enough cases around the NHL to know that you cannot buy a winner. So I believe in the old-fashioned way of building teams [from within]. We're here to win. This isn't about anything other than becoming a great team and pursuing championships." -- New Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi
The new Stars owner is a lifelong fan of the sport after first being exposed to hockey as a young child.

"I love the game, very passionate about the game. It's my favorite sport and the best game in the world. I've played the game since I was five-years-old and continue to play once or twice a week, believe it or not," Gaglardi said. "I want to thank my teammates for still allowing me to play on the team."

Even though he only became the Dallas owner a few days ago, he has already made one notable move, bringing back former Stars President Jim Lites for a third stint at that post. Lites had previously worked for the club between 1993 and 2002 and again from 2003 through 2007 and was instrumental in the sport growing so exponentially after the club's relocation from Minnesota in 1993.

"Having Jim Lites at the helm of the Stars is really an owner's dream. He knows the market. He loves the game and he is totally committed to bringing the Stars back to their rightful position as one of the elite franchises in the National Hockey League," Gaglardi said. "Jim knows what to do. It'll take some time but it's going to get done."

Since leaving Dallas in 2007, Lites had been working in the NFL. But it's clear he's glad to be back not only in a place he knows well, but also the site of some of his greatest professional successes.

"It feels more like 1993 to me than anything because there is a fresh start. It feels a little less daunting today than it did in 1993 when we didn't know if there were fans here," Lites said. "I'm really fired up about it. I like the opportunity."

Bettman, meanwhile, is not only glad to see the ownership situation in Dallas completely stable, but he also likes the vision for what he sees as a bright future with Gaglardi.

"Tom and I first talked about him buying the Stars I believe in 2009," Bettman said. "And for the last year with incredibly difficult transactional issues with complexity that is well beyond the norm in buying a sports franchise, Tom made it his mission to own this franchise. Why? Because he believes in Dallas, he believes in the National Hockey League and he believes in the Dallas Stars. So I believe that watching him over the last year, we have the right owner at the right time, for the right market, for the right franchise."

Gaglardi welcomes the challenge of helping guide the Stars back into the role of a championship contender. But he's also smart enough to know that he has much he can learn from the two previous owners in Dallas: Norm Green, under whose leadership the team relocated in 1993, and the club's most recent owner, Tom Hicks.    

"I've been fortunate enough to spend some time with Norm and Tom. They've been very, very supportive of me, very helpful and very forthcoming in some of the mistakes they might have made," Gaglardi said.

And with the Stars currently ranked near the bottom in payroll, one question on the minds of many who follow the club is how quickly the budget will increase. It was one query the new owner fielded with relative ease.

"I think there's been enough cases around the NHL to know that you cannot buy a winner. So I believe in the old-fashioned way of building teams [from within]," Gaglardi said. "We're here to win. This isn't about anything other than becoming a great team and pursuing championships."

Current Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, a recent inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame, echoed the sentiments of his new boss.

"I agree with Tom's philosophy that you build from within. You see in the National Hockey League nowadays how quickly you can turn things around. We're going to build this thing back up again," he said.

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