This off-season for the Dallas Stars was one of experimentation.
The organization decided to try out a new general manager, a new coach and a new brand, complete with updated logo and jerseys.
It also tried to broaden its range by sending training camp to the Fort Worth Convention Center and the Omni Hotel Fort Worth.
So far, the results of the Fort Worth experiment have come back all positive, Stars president and CEO Jim Lites said.
“Our experience was excellent,” Lites said. “I’m not surprised. It was every bit as good as we hoped when we did it.”
The NHL season begins Tuesday. The Stars open at home against Florida on Thursday at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
The organization held a three-day camp Sept. 12-14 in Fort Worth, practicing Thursday and Friday mornings followed by a “Green and White” scrimmage Saturday morning.
Fans had the opportunity to mix and mingle with players, front office staff and game-day promotions people while getting a first look at the new and improved team.
The only concern Lites and Stars general manager Jim Nill had with the choice in venue was the potential condition of the facilities and ice for the players to get a quality practice. Lites said it worked.
“I was pleasantly surprised that the ice was as good as it was in the convention center,” Lites said. “I don’t want to tell you it was Edmonton, but it was good. As Jim Nill put it, ‘Good enough.’”
While in town, the organization was able to host several season-ticket functions, which welcomed members of the front office with open arms, Lites said.
For the team, it allowed players to get away from their families and daily obligations and work on building team chemistry with future teammates as well as members of the Stars’ developmental affiliates.
“It’s not like they’re getting together in some ski lodge,” Lites said. “They are in an urban area where there is a lot to see and experience.”
Efficiency was the name of the game, which allowed the team to get in the work it needed without losing days from plane flights.
Lites said he hopes the team will return to Fort Worth for training camp, potentially even next year, should it receive the same opportunities presented by the City of Fort Worth and the Omni Hotel. Another potential option could be Cedar Park, home of the Stars’ AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.
But this season, Fort Worth is where hockey really began.
“Everyone from Mayor Betsy Price to the city manager to the people that run the convention center — everyone who made a promise to us that we’d love going to Fort Worth — more than fulfilled the opportunities,” Lites said.