DALLAS - The weight room and locker rooms at the Dallas Stars center in Frisco is virtually empty.
After missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year, this franchise has reached a new low. While the team and attendance are down, the presence of new owner Tom Gaglardi may give fans a reason to really say wait until next year.
"Tough days like today, coming in and saying 'bye' to some players you don't know if you'll see again," said Brendan Morrow, forward for the Stars. "Knowing that there's still hockey being played and you're not part of it doesn't make it any easier."
Once attracting only 6,300 fans to a game in October, attendance has dropped each of the last four years to the point where Dallas ranked 28th out of 30 teams.
Not coincidentally, the team's total salary has also gone down consistently since their last playoff appearance in 2008.
"I was here when we were having the 80-something million dollar payrolls, and one of the top teams in the league in putting a solid product on the ice every single year," said Steve Ott, forward for the Stars.
But things are changing. The Stars enter the off season with a true owner in place for the first time since general manager Joe Nieuwendyk took the job three years ago.
"There's a different dynamic in play this year, having that stability, having that backing," Nieuwendyk said. "I feel like now we're a player again."
And while the Stars ranked third to last in attendance, they enjoyed a big increase over the last two months, when they averaged 17,000 per 500 per game, number which would have ranked Dallas in the middle of the pack.
"We have every intention of re-activating the fan base here and getting them excited about what we're doing," said Jim Lites, Stars president. "That's our job. You can't do that without an owner."
The Stars four-year playoff drought is the longest in franchise history, and that includes when the team played in Minnesota. But, the organization has also never had the ownership instability over the last three years, and that's not a problem anymore.