Thursday, 15 September 2011

Bankruptcy With A Purpose

It appears that the financial pressures facing current Stars owner Tom Hicks will finally ease with the impending announcement that Hicks will have the team file for bankruptcy and put them up for auction. For all intents and purposes, bazillionaire Tom Gaglardi - chairman and chief executive officer of Sandman Hotels, Inns & Suites - would step up as a leading candidate to buy the franchise and set the Stars on the right path once again. Gaglardi would also assume ownership of 50% of American Airlines Arena, and all would be right in "Big D" once again. But the question needs to be asked: with Atlanta already gone and Phoenix on life support, is Dallas the next non-traditional hockey market to experience reality after a honeymoon hangover phase?

The entire idea behind this bankruptcy filing is so that the proceedings can be sped up through the courts. The NHL, the lenders dealing with the Stars' holdings, and Tom Hicks have all approved of this step in order to get Mr. Gaglardi into the ownership role so that Dallas can begin the season on solid ground.

Tom Hicks fell into the same money problems that a lot of people did when the recession hit. Hicks found himself in dire consequences monetarily, and he was forced to sell off a lot of his assets in order to keep his head above water. He has since sold off several sports teams in his portfolio and looks to continue that trend by disposing of the Stars.

When the team hits the auction block, it's almost a given that Gaglardi will be a bidder for the franchise, but there could be other players involved that might change things dramatically.

Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, owns the other 50% of American Airlines Arena, and he may want it all - the arena and both franchises that play in American Airlines Arena. So why not reach out to the man who can bring attention to the team and sport where interest is falling? Why not bring aboard a billionaire who loves being involved as both an owner and a fan?

I'm not saying that Gaglardi shouldn't be involved, but why not bring Gaglardi and Cuban together as a superpower collaboration of ownership? It's not like Cuban hasn't poked around the NHL's ownership group before. There was his interest in the Pittsburgh Penguins when they were for sale. He has poked around the Dallas Stars before, looking at scenarios for buying. It's not like Mark Cuban isn't interested.

Cuban represents what the NHL needs more of: forward-thinking, young Americans who want to drive the game into the next level. Gaglardi is what the NHL owners want more of: a Canadian who loves the sport no matter what. Putting those two together not only gives them complete control over one of the best venues in North America in American Airlines Arena, but it gives the NHL owners two men who could build and grow the game of hockey in Dallas and the state of Texas once again. Much like Tom Hocks did when he acquired an up-and-coming team, Gaglardi and Cuban could resurrect hockey in Dallas once again.

Cuban is all about developing and building a championship team. His work with the Dallas Mavericks was a history of bridemaids and could-have-beens until the Mavericks pulled off a stunning run through the playoffs in winning the NBA Championship. But Mark Cuban figured out that it isn't money that wins team-sport championships and you cannot buy yourself a championship. Instead, he found out that it takes a couple of special players, some key role players, and some magic called chemistry. After years of watching the Kobe Bryants and Tim Duncans oust the Mavericks from the playoffs, Cuban felt the ultimate victory as he built a championship team and watched his team beat those that had bettered him for so long.

Now put Cuban in the driver's seat of the Dallas Stars. The Stars have a few special players already - Brendan Morrow, Loui Eriksson, and Mike Ribeiro - and have added a few key players along the way - Alex Goligoski, Adam Burish, and Jamie Benn. Clearly, though, the Stars have some growing to do, and that's where Cuban comes in as he'd provide the passion and desire from management to push the Stars back to their Stanley Cup form. It would take a few seasons, but Cuban has proven through his work with the Mavericks that he's willing to invest the time in order to get results. That, readers, is the top reason why Mark Cuban should be added to Tom Gaglardi's ownership group.

Or course, there may be a power struggle in that management group as Mark Cuban is very driven to be the best. I'm not saying that Gaglardi and Cuban can't work together, but a power struggle behind the scenes could erupt. Any infinite amount of possibilities could occur, though, so all we're working on at this point is academia.

For a city like Dallas that was once a difficult place to play for opposing teams, it's time that the Stars got back to their winning ways. The fans filled the arena to cheer on Modano, Hull, Lehtinen, Zubov, Hatcher, Belfour, and Turco. Cuban could certainly light that fire in the city again, but the Stars need one thing right now more than anything else: steady, committed ownership. Whether it be Mark Cuban or Tom Gaglardi, a solid owner will certainly go a long way in Dallas.

And with a solid owner, the Stars won't have to worry about moving a long way away from Dallas like the situation that some of their southern brethren are facing.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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