The Dallas Stars Are Ready to Win Us Back

The hockey team is fueled by the good ol' days

"It's a bold strategy," Cogen says. "We're basically cutting-and-pasting ticket prices right from Reunion Arena 10 years ago."

Something needs to be done, and kudos to the Stars for doing it.

The fans still shout "Stars!" during the National Anthem and pump their fists to Pantera's hard-rockin' theme song. Modano's shirttail still trails in the breeze on breakaways. The team's game-day production crew still nails it with video bits like "Finnish or Gibberish" and music from Flight of the Conchords. And just ask the players: It's still "aboot" winning.

But it's all not quite right. The allure has diminished. Craziness has been replaced by complacency.

The Stars once had 14,000 season-ticket holders backed by a waiting list, TV ratings above 3.0 and a sellout streak of 238 games. Now, season tickets are down to 11,000, ratings below 1.0 and their longest sellout streak this season is four.

Why? Pacific Division banners and President's Trophies no longer jazz us any more than NFC East titles and 13 Pro Bowlers, or 67 regular-season wins and Southwest Division championships.

Detroit is Hockeytown; Dallas is Cockytown.

Says Cogen, "We're a victim of our own relative success."

In the late '90s the Stars rode the perfect wave, an intoxicating blend of their grand success before Mark Cuban bought the Mavericks and after Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin passed their prime.

But now? Hockey has suffered a betting scandal, a near-fatal lockout and a cable TV banishment to Versus. The Mavs trade for Hall of Famers, the Cowboys have mega-watt winners and the Stars never make it to May.

How then, do you re-create the novelty? How do you duplicate your first time with a virgin?

By reaching back, in order to reach out.

"Some of the fans that were with us in '99 have stopped coming and stopped watching, but I don't think they hate us," Cogen says. "With a healthy playoff run and rolled-back pricing, we're speaking directly to them."

Hear that?

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