Ice on the Block

For sale by owner: Pro hockey team. Goal oriented. Key parts just replaced. Asking price: $300 million OBO. Contact T. Hicks, Dallas.

DEAR PROSPECTIVE OWNER OF THE Dallas Stars,

So, you’re no doubt wondering, exactly what kind of hockey team do you get for $300 million? If it seems like it was only yesterday that the Stars were the hottest thing in town, that’s because it was. No sooner had the 1999 Stanley Cup winners and 2000 Cup finalists packed up all that goodwill and left Reunion Arena behind than the on-ice action turned to slush.

Last year was the Stars’ first since 1996 without a playoff appearance, a dismal finish for a team with one of the National Hockey League’s highest payrolls and a particularly unacceptable one in Dallas. The city’s core hockey fans may be legion, but dominance in sports bars and TV ratings comes with winning. When I wrote about the team in these pages in May 1999 (“Ice Guys Finish First”), I observed that in Dallas, “you either win or you’re the Mavericks.” Things change.

The good news is, with 190 consecutive sellouts and all sorts of revenue-producing bells and whistles built into their new home, the American Airlines Center, the Stars made a profit without making the playoffs, or so Tom Hicks claims. Next to his tenure as the owner of the Texas Rangers, Hicks’ stewardship of the Stars seems downright masterful—and heroic. He didn’t buy the franchise because he was a fan or to give himself an ego boost. He bought it as a business. He signed every check his hockey people asked him to, gave the team’s marketers free rein, and won both on the ice and off. Things went bad last season, but the consensus around the NHL is that Hicks did everything he could to put the Stars on top again, from restaffing the front office to restocking the team with pricey free agents.

The bad news is, since those bills haven’t come due yet, most of that money will come out of your pocket, not his. Here’s what it will buy.

The front office. Not since Jerry Jones cut loose Landry, Brandt,

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