After an emotional day surrounded by friends, family and players past and present, Tom Gaglardi had made the official announcement to the world that he was, in fact, the new owner of the Dallas Stars. After a lengthy and complicated sale process, the 43-year-old Vancouver businessman and president of Northland Properties, the largest family-owned hospitality company in Canada, is today, he said, just a hockey fan.
“This is an amazing arena”, he says as he wanders around the tunnel of the American Airlines Center after his press conference. “I think it’s the nicest in the National Hockey League”, he adds with a smile. He is greeted every few feet by prominent people that will be key to his new operation shortly, taking the time to thank them and ask them about what they do and where they are from. It’s only a few short hours before Gaglardi will do the ceremonial puck drop before their first game under his ownership – which will serve as a big one in the win column against the Edmonton Oilers.
Gaglardi knows that things aren’t what they should be with the Stars – from attendance to marketing to community outreach – but he sees the positives and knows that he wouldn’t have bought the team if he didn’t. He beams proudly, “Everything is aligned here. We’ve got great leaders, a great young team with plenty of upside, a great arena and a great city, so I’m thrilled.”
ScoreBoard: Congratulations, you now own an NHL franchise. I suppose that’s something you don’t hear every day? What has this experience been like today?
Tom Gaglardi: It’s surreal. It’s one of those things that you think the day will never come – and then it happens. I don’t even know how you prepare for it – it’s almost like it’s not real. Part of it is the sobering reality of being out here for the task at hand. We’ve got a lot of work to do in Dallas, which I’m excited to do. I love to work and I love challenges, but I feel really strongly about where we sit today. We have an excellent General Manager (Joe Nieuwendyk) that I believe in 100% – the philosophies, the direction he’s going in, the players we have. Some of our best players are the young guys and that’s a great place to be. We have lots of flexibility and we’re going to be able to spend when that opportunity comes. It’s a very enviable position to be in.
ScoreBoard: You’re not only a hockey fan, but a hockey player – and you’ve played since you were five years old. This is more than just an acquisition for you, it’ a dream, right?
TG: Well, it’s so cool that I get to own a NHL franchise. I can’t even believe it. Dallas is a franchise that I’ve admired from afar for a long, long time. It’s won so much and such a great tradition and history in such a great city. There’s a massive fan base here and we’ve just got to go and get them reconnected here. It’s going to happen fast. I was very fortunate that I was able to get Jim (Lites, Stars President and CEO) and he wanted to come back. I feel really good about Jim and Joe running the show.
ScoreBoard: How do you plan on “reconnecting” the fans?
TG: Well, we’ve got to get out and market and tell people what we’re doing. There’s all kinds of ways to do that today. It’s a different world. You don’t talk to people the way you used to talk to people and frankly, it’s a lot easier with social media. We have to get out there and tell Dallas how good these kids that we have are. We have some superstars that we’ve kept a secret I think the last couple of years. We have to tell Stars fans to come spend three hours and get emotionally involved and attached to out team. We’re not going to let you down. We want you to come back. We’re going to work hard. We’re in it to win.
ScoreBoard: Dallas isn’t such a random spot for you to pick. You have family ties and familiarity here, right?
TG: Yes, my mother is a Texan, I have family here, I’m familiar with it, I’m comfortable here. When I landed in Dallas/Fort Worth, it didn’t feel like a foreign place to me. Also, I think there will be great opportunities for our company to set up shop in the US. We’ve talked about it and I think Dallas is a natural launching pad.
ScoreBoard: You’ve said that you won’t be moving here, but we will see you a lot here?
TG: Absolutely. I’m looking forward to being here. It’s a short flight for me – it’s under four hours. It’s not tough to get here at all. I’ll be here and I’ll be seeing the team on the road. I look forward to being a fan – and that’s what I am at the end of the day. I want to hire the best people and give them the best opportunity I can to be successful.
ScoreBoard: What was the most surprising aspect of the purchase? It’s not as easy as just writing a check, is it?
TG: It certainly isn’t – especially with this one. I have been told this is the most difficult and complex NHL team transaction that ever occurred. There’s lots of different stakeholders, lots of complexity and lots of process. It’s been long and often times frustrating, But we’re done with all of that now and we’re looking forward to moving ahead now.
ScoreBoard: You’re no stranger to success, but what would success mean to you as far as this team goes?
TG: I want to be a competitive team, tough to play against and in the top standing through the year. We want to beat the best in the league – most notably Detroit – and I think that’s attainable. Dallas had that for a few years and I think we’re capable of that position again. I want to win. I don’t want to come here and be second place. We’re here to do everything we can to be a great organization on and off the ice and that’s what I’m going to be committed to do. We’re going to get at it. Our goal is to be the best.