Dallas Stars' Tom Gaglardi: The Rare Sports Owner Who's Right For His Team

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 21: Owner, Tom Gaglardi of the Dallas Stars with Jim Lites and Joe Nieuwendyk at American Airlines Center on November 21, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It's obvious that Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi is in it for the right reasons: Not for profit, not for a business opportunity, and not because daddy left him the team. But because he loves the game and wants to win.

Do the Dallas Stars finally have the owner they need and fans deserve in Tom Gaglardi? Stars fans at Defending Big D sure think so, and they may have a point.

But be careful out there, because even the best intentions can turn sour.

As they get older most sports fans should start to realize their favorite team's long-term fortunes rest not in a star's hands nor a referee's eyes but in the whims of the owners who control the franchise.

Players come and go but owners do, too. And it matters quite a lot whether your favorite team's owner is in the sports business for a land development deal, for civic pride, for building a media empire, as a rabid fan with cash to burn, as an heir who inherited the team or -- in rare cases -- as purely an investment.

To the latter point, nothing sums up the investment angle better than the name of SB Nation's site for Toronto Maple Leafs fans: Pension Plan Puppets. That name says so much in so little, but if you prefer more words, more colorfully, consider The Hockey News' Adam Proteau's description of the soon-to-be-former-Leafs-owners as "a faceless money-sucking monolith like Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment."

(Last month, telecom giants Bell and Rogers collectively took a majority stake in the Leafs, moving them from an investment toy to a media property.)

In the NHL, the Leafs were controlled for too long as an investment for a pension fund and haven't made the playoffs since the lockout. The New York Rangers are part of a media empire, as are the Philadelphia Flyers. (Team founder Ed Snider doubles as one passionate fan, but he's also the guy who meddled enough to get the team to devote nine years and a $5.67 million cap hit to a non-elite goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov.)

No one knows what Daryl Katz wants with the Oilers beyond an arena development downtown with help from public funding.

The New York Islanders were owned by a series of incompetent owners who just wanted to cash in on the hub of Nassau County, to no avail. Long Island native Charles Wang eventually stepped in -- seeking the same development deal -- but pouring cash into a money-losing franchise as perhaps the last man crazy enough to keep them as Long Island's only pro sports team.

The Chicago Blackhawks were nearly starved into irrelevance by longtime miserly owner Bill Wirtz -- until he died, and his son breathed the 21st century (and a Stanley Cup) into the team. The Buffalo Sabres were owned by a cable tycoon ... who ended up in prison, leaving the team to face bankruptcy. Then the Sabres were run on a shoestring by Tom Golisano -- but hey, at least it was a shoestring that kept the franchise in Buffalo.

At last, Terry Pegula stepped in as that rarest of knights in shining armor: A fan of the sport, fan of the club, and a billionaire. Suddenly the Sabres are spending to the cap ... but doing so by committing six years and $27 million to the unimpressive Ville Leino. Oops.

Where Gaglardi is different from all of the above is he just wanted to own a hockey team. He's not from the area, but he wanted one of the NHL's 30 franchises because he's a fan. From his den in his British Columbia home he wanted to live out the fantasy of so many fans: Owning and directing your own team.

The lone Stanley Cup to the Stars' name is in part thanks to Tom Hicks, the moneybag who once funded the team (and also signed Alex Rodriguez to a groundbreaking contract for the Texas Rangers, pitching be damned). But Hicks is also the fool who nearly ruined the Rangers, Stars and a sports franchise bigger than both of them: the historic English soccer club Liverpool FC.

Gaglardi bought a team whose previous owner's mistakes had alienated a fanbase that once sold out every night, a community that was part of hockey's growth in Texas for the last two decades.

While Hicks bashed the NHL model and made excuses about how he'd stripped bare a once-proud franchise, Gaglardi walked in and immediately slashed ticket prices to gain fans back, while also rehiring an executive from the team's glory years.

"When we walked in, the pricing was illogical from the fans’ perspective, so we simplified the pricing by reducing most seats," said Jim Lites, CEO and president of the Dallas Stars.

Gee, is that a good idea for a team that was drawing a near-league low 10,000 fans per game at the beginning of the season? Perhaps. As Gaglardi told the Stars' radio flagship:

"Already since the ownership change and we've announced the ticket price changes our attendance is up over 5,000 per game. That's remarkable. We're certainly ahead of where I thought we'd be."

Suddenly the Stars have drawn over 15,000 fans for six games in a row, topping 16,000 twice in that span.

It's obvious from his statements that Gaglardi is in it for what fans would call the right reasons: Not for profit, not for a business opportunity, and not because daddy left him the team. He's in it because he's a hockey fan whose personal success has afforded him the opportunity every fan dreams of.

As a bonus, he knows a thing or two about the sport -- even discussing the minutes allocated to different players -- and yet knows to trust his hockey personnel. But I'll let Brandon Worley of SB Nation's Defending Big D sum it up.

This is a perfect example of just how smart Gaglardi is, not as a businessman, but as a sports owner. Tom Hicks had an open checkbook for the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars and it did little for the actual success of those teams. Gaglardi has seen how there is no guarantee that overspending on a roster will lead to winning and he's also seen how building primarily through the draft isn't exactly a recipe for success either, as he pointed directly to the Edmonton Oilers as an example.

Instead, he understands there's a balance in how to build a team and that each move is risky and must be approached as smartly as possible.

Gee, what a concept.

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