When Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi found out that the owners of the Texas Stars were looking to go in a different direction, it was an easy decision to make a move to buy the team.
On Thursday Northland Properties – the parent holding company of the Dallas Stars – announced its intention to buy the Texas Stars – Dallas’ American Hockey League affiliate – from Hicks Cedar Park LLC.
“It was just a natural move to accommodate the Hicks family and to make sure that we are in full control of our future,” said Gaglardi, who is President of Northland Properties. “I think it is important to be on the same page with your AHL club and what your objectives are. I think you look around the NHL and the best clubs have a full alignment of interests between the NHL program and the AHL clubs.”
Texas has been the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars for the past five seasons and has helped develop current Dallas players such as Cody Eakin, Brenden Dillon, Antoine Roussel, Ryan Garbutt, Jordie Benn and Colton Sceviour.
The Dallas prospects who played in Texas last season include Brett Ritchie, Jamie Oleksiak, Jack Campbell, Patrik Nemeth, Jyrki Jokipakka, Radek Faksa and Scott Glennie.
“There are 30 clubs out there and you’ve got to find a way to win. In the old days before the salary cap you could buy a winner, but those days are over now,” said Gaglardi. “You have to be better than your peers at drafting and developing, so the AHL club is so important.”
Texas has made the playoffs in four of its first five years in the AHL, heading to the Calder Cup Finals in its inaugural season and then winning the Calder Cup last season. Gaglardi expects that success to continue.
“You look at the success Texas has had in the last five years, they’ve been as successful as any club in the AHL,” Gaglardi said. “They won a Calder Cup in their fifth year. We expect to have a great team again. Our pipeline is strong and we should have a strong AHL club for a very long time with the strength of our prospect pool. It’s a great situation.”
Gaglardi is excited about one of the key moves Texas made this offseason, hiring Derek Laxdal to replace Willie Desjardins as head coach. Desjardins, who led Texas to the Calder Cup championship last season, accepted the head coaching job with the Vancouver Canucks. Laxdal has spent the last four seasons with Edmonton of the Western Hockey League, winning two WHL titles and leading the Oil Kings to the Memorial Cup title last season.
“He took a roster that I am shocked he took it that far, and won a Memorial Cup. This guy is a talented guy who can coach,” said Gaglardi. “It was a big loss in losing Willie Desjardins, but Derek Laxdal is an exciting up and coming guy, who I watch firsthand in the Western Hockey League, and what he has accomplished in the WHL is amazing. I expect Texas is going to be a strong club.”
Northland’s deal to buy the Texas Stars is far from done and could take four to six months to complete. Any ownership change would be subject to approval of the AHL’s Board of Governors.
“There is a lot of work to be done,” said Stars President Jim Lites.
Both Lites and Gaglardi said they expect a seamless transition to new ownership once the deal is finalized.
“I don’t really expect much to change because the relationship with Texas and the Hicks family has been solid,” Gaglardi said.
Lites added that aiding a smooth transition will be Rick McLaughlin, the former Dallas Stars executive who is currently the Texas Stars President and General Manager of Cedar Park Center, which is where Texas plays.
“Rick McLaughlin is a perfect guy to be there,” Lites said. “We love him and anticipate working with him.”
Northland Properties’ plan also includes operations of the city-owned Cedar Park Center, which seats 6,863 for hockey, 7,200 for basketball and up to 8,700 for concerts and other events. The arena has 24 suites and 545 club seats.
“It’s a beautiful arena and doing well in the market,” Gaglardi said. “While it was important for us to be in charge of our destiny and make sure that relationship is strong, at the end of the day it has to be a business too and it’s a business. It’s a healthy business.”
Northland also announced two other moves Thursday, both involving facilities in the Dallas area. It has purchased the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Plano and is close to completing a deal to acquire the Ice Training Center (ITC) in Richardson. Both facilities will help as the Stars continue to push developing hockey at the grassroots level.
“You’re in the business or you’re not. Plano was in the family and then through the bankruptcy got lost, so that’s just a repatriation of an important link to the Dr Pepper StarCenters’ business. We wanted to bring that back into the fold,” Gaglardi said. “We found another rink that I think will fit nicely into our group. If you are in the business you are in the business. It’s about building hockey at the grassroots level and it’s built around the Stars’ brand. That’s important to us. And I look for us to continue to grow that business, whether it is building new rinks in D/FW or acquisitions. You can expect that we are going to continue to grow.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.