Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites spoke to a packed house at the McKinney Chamber’s quarterly CEO Series luncheon this week, giving the crowd insight into his job and a preview of the upcoming hockey season.
Lites joked about how it was his third time in his career to lead the same professional hockey franchise. He served as CEO under previous Dallas Stars owners Norm Green and Tom Hicks before new owner Tom Gaglardi persuaded him to return to the job.
“That doesn’t happen much in professional sports,” Lites said, laughing.
Lites’ ties to the Stars date to the 1990s, when he was a key member of the team that started the Dallas Stars franchise. He was the chief operating officer of the Detroit Red Wings in the 1980s.
During Lites’ work with the Stars, the team won seven division titles, two Western Conference Championships, two Presidents’ Trophies – and the 1999 Stanley Cup.
Lites mentioned the honors as a way to introduce surprise guests Ed Belfour, the Hockey Hall of Fame goalie from the Stanley Cup-winning team, and defenseman Craig Ludwig, who won Stanley Cups with the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens.
“Without those two guys’ leadership, commitment to excellence and intensity, we would have never won the Stanley Cup,” Lites said, as the more than 100 luncheon attendees at Eldorado Country Club applauded Belfour and Ludwig.
He said that if you work or spend time around professional athletes, “we’re blessed to deal with hockey players. They’ve been a pleasure.”
Lites also spoke highly of owner Gaglardi, saying that due to the salary cap and the times we live in, Gaglardi recognizes that the team needs to focus on both developing and drafting players.
Lites says the Stars have the best scouts and best development staff in hockey. “From the perspective of growing players, the franchise is in as good of a position as it’s ever been. … Tom Gaglardi is a guy who wants to win. He has a strong entrepreneurial attitude.”
He spoke briefly about the team’s recovery from bankruptcy that occurred under Hicks’ ownership, saying the good thing about the recovery is “there’s no money to spend incorrectly.”
Lites worries that the new hockey season will be slightly delayed over ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the National Hockey League and the NHL players’ association.
Once the season gets under way, Lites says, the Stars will be a “playoff franchise and one that will compete every day – and we’re going to have a lot of fun doing it.
“You’re either selling performance or you’re selling hope. We think we’re positioned to compete.”
About the author: Holly Becka is associate editor of McKinney Magazine.