'Game on' for Dallas Stars as NHL lockout ends

01/06/2013 11:05 PM

01/07/2013 9:14 AM

FRISCO -- With the NHL still in a lockout over the weekend, Dallas Stars president Jim Lites traveled with his wife to Cedar Park to take in a few games of the club's AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.

He sat in his hotel in the Austin suburb Sunday morning around 9 o'clock, drinking coffee with his wife when his son called and said, "Game on."

Lites had yet to look at his phone and realize that the NHL and the players' union had come to an agreement over the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement that ended management's lockout at around 4 a.m. Sunday.

He drove back to Dallas and a few hours later, discussed the Stars' plans for the shortened 2012-2013 season, set to begin next week.

The agreement remains to be ratified by both the players association and the owners before Lites expects a schedule to be released, but he believes games could begin as early as Jan 15 -- if the league draws up a 50-game schedule, or Jan 19 if the league elects to go with a 48-game schedule.

The 19th was already slated as a home game for the Stars before the lockout, and Lites said he believes it would remain a home game in the new schedule.

Dallas finished 42-35-5 with 89 points last season, but missed the playoffs.

"I'm happy to say we're going to be playing," Lites said. "The Stars are looking forward to being back in the mix and playing at the American Airlines Center. We're fired up for the opportunity."

Players have been contacted by several members of the front office, including general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, and should congregate in Dallas within the next few days, Lites said.

"It'll be a scramble," Lites said.

Lites said he was unable to talk about, nor did he know of, any of the details agreed upon in the new CBA, except that it should last at least eight years with a maximum of 10.

An NHL Board of Governors meeting has tentatively been scheduled for Tuesday in which the owners will vote to ratify the new CBA, Lites said.

Now that hockey games are on the horizon, Lites said the organization's full attention will be on bringing hockey fans back into the fold.

"I can tell you this, I'm sure fans are upset and I don't blame them a bit," Lites said. "We have to win back their trust."

Some "significant" ideas to give back to the fans are in the works, Lites said, but he said the organization will do everything it can to improve the game on the ice and provide fans plenty of access to players and the organization, including maintaining fan-friendly ticket prices.

"I think that everyone should pay attention, because you saw what Mr. [Tom] Gaglardi [the Stars' owner] did with the prices last year. He made the ticket a lot more achievable for the casual fan, and I don't think any of that is going to go backwards this year.

"We're going to do everything we can to be relevant in this community."

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