The Dallas Stars, a professional hockey team, belong to the Pacific Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League. The franchise, originally known as the Minnesota North Stars, began play during the 1967–1968 season when the NHL added six expansion teams, thereby doubling in size. The franchise moved to Dallas before the 1993–94 season.
Professional hockey in Dallas dates back to 1941, when the Dallas Texans joined the minor-league American Hockey Association. The debut occurred at Fair Park Ice Arena on November 6, 1941, when the Texans played against the St. Paul Saints in front of a crowd of more than 4,000 spectators. However, World War II caused the cancellation of league play until the 1945–46 season, when the Texans resumed play as members of the United States Hockey League. Due to travel costs, however, the Texans (along with teams in Fort Worth and Houston) dropped out of the USHL following the 1948–49 season. The Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL operated a minor-league team called the Dallas Blackhawks in the Central Hockey League from 1967 to 1982. The CHL returned to Dallas in 1992 with a team called the Dallas Freeze, but that team ceased operations after the 1993–94 season.
During their twenty-six seasons in Minnesota, the North Stars twice won division titles (in 1981–82 and 1983–84) and twice reached the final round of the playoffs (in 1980–81 and 1990–91), but never won a Stanley Cup, symbol of the NHL championship. In their first season in Dallas under the guidance of coach and general manager Bob Gainey, the Stars finished third in the Central Division, though they fell to fifth the following season and to sixth, missing the playoffs, in 1995–96.
In December 1995 owner Norman Green sold the team to media mogul Tom Hicks, also the owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. Shortly thereafter, Gainey hired Ken Hitchcock to assume the coaching duties. The change paid off almost immediately. Beginning with the 1996–97 season, the Stars established themselves as one of the elite teams in the NHL. In 1998–99 they posted the best regular season record in the NHL (51–19–12) and claimed their first Stanley Cup championship, winning in six games over the Buffalo Sabres.
The Stars anthem, the "Dallas Stars Fight Song," penned by the metro-area metal group Pantera aired throughout the team's 1999 Stanley Cup run. Center Joe Nieuwendyk won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player, and Hitchcock was named Coach of the Year by the Hockey News. They reached the finals again the following year but lost to the New Jersey Devils in six games. By the end of the 2000–2001 season they had won five divisional titles in a row. At the beginning of the 2001–2002 season the Stars left their longtime venue of Reunion Arena and played in the new American Airlines Center.
In early 2002, amidst team and management disputes, Bob Gainey fired Coach Ken Hitchcock and then resigned as general manager. Doug Armstrong was immediately appointed general manager, and Dave Tippett was hired as head coach at the end of the season. The Stars rebounded to reach the playoffs in 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007.
In November 2007, however, Doug Armstrong was dismissed as general manager, and assistant general manager Les Jackson and former Stars player Brett Hull were named as interim co-general managers. The team made it to the Western Conference finals in 2008 but lost to the Detroit Red Wings in six games. In 2009, after a dismal season plagued with injuries, Dave Tippett was fired by new general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, and Marc Crawford was named the new coach.
The arrival of Nieuwendyk and Crawford coincided with financial woes setting in for the Stars. With the Hicks ownership group running into cash flow problems, there was cost-cutting across the board including on team payroll. The Stars remained competitive but missed the playoffs again in 2010 and 2011, leading Nieuwendyk to fire Crawford and hire a new head coach in Glen Gulutzan, who had been coaching the Stars’ affiliate in the American Hockey League. The day after Crawford was fired, the Stars’ financial/ownership issues took a step towards resolution. The Stars and Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the sale of the club. The sale was completed in the fall of 2011 after the Stars filed for bankruptcy, and a federal judge approved the sale to Gaglardi. Despite the new ownership and financial stability, the Stars continued to struggle on the ice. They missed the playoffs in 2012 and 2013, running their postseason drought to five years. Gaglardi fired Nieuwendyk after the 2013 season and hired Jim Nill, who had been assistant general manager with the Detroit Red Wings.
Nill quickly went to work reshaping the Stars. He let Gulutzan go and hired veteran Lindy Ruff as the team’s new head coach. A little more than two months into his tenure he pulled off a blockbuster trade, acquiring center Tyler Seguin in a seven-player deal with the Boston Bruins. Seguin, one of the top young players in the game, and Dallas captain Jamie Benn, another top young player, gave the Stars two impressive cornerstones moving forward. The move paid dividends right off the bat as the Stars ended their five-year postseason drought by making it to the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where they lost to Anaheim in the first round. The Stars ranked second in the league in scoring in 2014-15 but were among the worst in goals against and missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years in 2015.
The change in ownership in 2011 eventually led to a rebranding for the Stars for the first time since the move to Dallas in 1993. The club unveiled a new look for the 2013-14 season, including a new logo and a new primary color – Victory Green. The Stars saw the end of an era on the broadcasting front after the 2014-15 season when longtime play-by-play man Ralph Strangis resigned to pursue other opportunities after 25 years in the booth with the team. Strangis and Daryl “Razor” Reaugh, who had been together 19 seasons, were considered one of the top broadcasting duos in the game. The Stars hired veteran broadcaster Dave Strader to take over for Strangis for the 2015-16 season. Strader and Reaugh broadcast simultaneously on television and radio – making the Stars one of only a handful of professional sports teams in the nation to offer simultaneous broadcasts. In 2007, the city of Dallas and the American Airlines Center hosted the NHL All-Star Game.
The Stars retired the number 9 of Mike Modano, the franchise leader in just about every offensive category, in a ceremony at American Airlines Center on March 8, 2014. Modano helped sell hockey in Dallas and the Southwest when the franchise arrived in 1993 and helped lead the team to its Stanley Cup championship in 1999. Modano, the top U.S.-born scorer in NHL history, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (2014) and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame (2012). Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour – two key members of the 1999 championship team – were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011. Among the Dallas Stars who have won NHL awards are Jamie Benn, who won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer (2015) and was named First Team NHL All-Star (2014) and Jere Lehtinen, who won the Selke Trophy as Best Defensive Forward (1998, 1999, 2003).
The Dallas Stars had two minor-league affiliate teams set for the 2015-16 season. An American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Texas Stars, was located in Cedar Park, Texas. Texas won the AHL’s championship trophy – the Calder Cup – in 2014. The Idaho Steelheads of Boise, Idaho, were a Stars affiliate in the ECHL. The Steelheads won the ECHL’s championship trophy – the Kelly Cup – in 2004 and 2007.