While we all tend to focus solely on the Dallas Stars, we can't ignore the effect their success has had on hockey in North Texas. The Brahmas, Allen Americans and Texas Tornado are all outstanding examples of how hockey works in Texas. And today, the most prestigious of the three, the Tornado, introduced their new ownership at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco.
Very quickly, let me explain the Texas Tornado and the North American Hockey League for those who aren't familiar. The NAHL is a junior hockey league designed to help student athletes (aged 16-20) transition from midget and high school hockey to college hockey by playing in a pro hockey environment. Because the players in the league are students, games are played on the weekends so they don't interfere with school. It's a great league for developing talent before they reach the collegiate level, and the Texas Tornado are one of the premiere franchises in the league. Texas won three consecutive national championships from 2004-2006 and seven North American Hockey League division titles from 1990-2007, developing over 80 players into NCAA and professional leagues.
The ownership group is led by Bill Yuill, president of Consolidated Sports Holdings USA, Inc. Yuill is no stranger to owning sports teams, as his company has presided over successful baseball and hockey franchises for over three decades. A concern for fans of the Tornado had to be whether or not the new ownership was committed to winning. . Yuill made it clear in his press conference that winning was still a priority:
"We really have three rules. Number one is that we want a competitive team. We want a team that wins more than they lose. The other rule we have is we want to have home ice advantage in the playoffs. Number three is to just get us into the second round of the playoffs. It's very important, and I've learned through my other businesses that it's tough to run a franchise when you don't win. So it's very important to us to have a competitive team."
After the jump, more on the Dallas Stars' involvement in the process....
Mr. Yuill was joined by Consolidated Sports Holdings executive vice president Gary Gelinas, who will oversee day-to-day operations of the team. Also in attendance was NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld, Tornado head coach Tony Curtale and Dallas Stars president Jeff Cogen. Gelinas will come into the job with great experience, having owned four junior hockey teams and one lacrosse team in Canada. Gelinas took time to thank the Stars for helping negotiate a lease to keep the Tornado in Frisco:
"No question about it, when we sat down with them and talked about getting a new lease in place, they understood the model we were trying to create and that we wanted to be a partner with them. And it was really important that together we have success, because if either one of us does not the model doesn't work. They were absolutely terrific to work with. What I really want to express is that we created a partnership. I don't know what existed in the past, but certainly with the creation of the lease and our discussions we are going to be partners moving forward. Our success is their success, and their success is our success."
Walking away from the press conference, you got the feeling that the Tornado are in good hands. Yuill and Gelinas are no strangers to the sports franchise business, and both seem wholly committed to continuing the winning tradition in Frisco. The new ownership should mark another big step in the creation of a hockey culture in North Texas. We here at Defending Big D wish them the best of luck.
For more info on Texas minor league hockey, visit Big D Hockey, where they do some outstanding coverage.
(By the way, Jeff Cogen quipped that the Stars might want to copy Yuill's three rules for success......the second round of the playoffs sure sounds nice right now, doesn't it? Sigh...)