Stars are ‘way less unprofitable’ than they used to be

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There’s no question the Dallas Stars are on their way back to respectability when it comes to their on-ice performance. After five straight missed postseasons, they finally made it back to the playoffs in 2013-14. And with Jason Spezza on board for 2014-15, some believe they’ve become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

Off the ice, however, the hockey team still has a ways to go. The Stars ranked 28th in attendance last season, averaging just 14,658 fans at the American Airlines Center. Only the Panthers (14,177) and Coyotes (13,775) drew fewer per game. And despite the return to the postseason, Stars’ playoff tickets weren’t exactly a hot commodity, either.

That said, team president Jim Lites is confident that the business, like the on-ice performance, is trending in the right direction.

“It doesn’t mean we’re making money yet in the sense that are we profitable,” Lites said, per Defending Big D. “I would say this. We’re way less unprofitable than we used to be, and [owner Tom Gaglardi] is very supportive of what we do and very understanding and appreciative of the fans.”

From SportsBusiness Daily:

Lites said that the team is 80% of the way to selling out the arena’s lower bowl on a nightly basis. The team has a full season-ticket base of 9,000 heading into this season, up from 6,000 when Gaglardi took over. Lites added that the goal is to finish ’14-15 with that number reaching an “aggressive” figure of 12,000. He also noted that the team has sold more new season-ticket packages this offseason than any NHL franchise except for the Avalanche, which he attributed to the team’s strong performance last season.

It goes without saying that missing the postseason for a long stretch and going bankrupt aren’t the best ways to market a sports team. It was always going to be a challenge to get people excited about the NHL again in Dallas, a non-traditional hockey market with no shortage of sports competition.

The Stars seem to be going about it the right way, though. They hired a capable general manager in Jim Nill. They’re building the team around a pair of marketable young stars in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. They’re patiently developing prospects in the AHL. And on top of the fact they’re starting to win again, they’re doing it while playing an entertaining style.

“I think we’re putting hockey back on the map here. I think Dallas is a great hockey town,” Nill said recently. “You look back to when they were in their heydays, when they won the Cup and that Dallas was as good a city anywhere in the world for hockey, and I think we’re getting back there … I think there are going to be some special things happening here.”

Related:

Huzzah, the Dallas Stars are no longer bankrupt

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.